UND exploring move to Division I
The Associated Press
FARGO -The University of North Dakota appears interested in a closer look at expanding its NCAA Division I sports program, and one possibility is the Big Sky Conference.
The Forum reported in a copyright story Thursday that UND has formed a committee to gather information on the idea.
UND President Charles Kupchella said in October that the school was in no hurry to pursue Division I athletics for all its programs. UND now competes in Division I in hockey.
Athletic Director Roger Thomas said the Big Sky's move toward expansion "certainly perked things up."
The Big Sky Presidents Council meets Dec. 13 to decide which schools, if any, to formally visit. North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah each have returned to the Big Sky a required questionnaire.
Thomas said UND would have to do surveys "and other types of mechanical things other people did" before it would make any official move toward Division I.
"We've been gathering information, but there are legitimate public steps that schools have done," he said. "We're well aware of those steps. Are we representing our coaches, fans, campus and faculty? If we make a decision, it has to be grounded in some facts."
NDSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor said he talked with Thomas about the issue. He said he also has taken phone calls from UND head men's basketball coach Rich Glas and head swimming and diving coach Maviael Sampaio.
Taylor said a proposal in January's annual NCAA Convention to reduce the maximum Division II football scholarships from 36 to 24 could be part of UND's discussions.
"If something happens in Division II, they need to have a plan in place," he said.
UND's committee includes Glas, Sampaio, Alumni Association development officer Rob Bollinger, head track and field coach thingy Clay, head football coach Dale Lennon, assistant volleyball coach Jason Holt, Ralph Engelstad Arena facility manager Mike Stromberg, Sioux booster club president Gary Euren and UND athletic administration grad assistant Chris Swenson, said Bollinger, who chairs the group.
"It's more investigative," Bollinger said. "It's very harmless at this point."
Bollinger said the Division II football scholarship proposal "is the reason it got more serious."
Kupchella said earlier that Division I expansion would require a $70 million endowment to generate $3 million more annually to pay for the athletic program.
The Forum said that through an open record's request of documents between UND and the Big Sky Conference, it obtained an Aug. 12 letter from Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton to Kupchella inviting UND to open dialogue with the Big Sky.
In an Aug. 25 response, Kupchella wrote UND is "constantly monitoring the issue of NCAA classification."
"There are a number of 'factors' that we consider in assessing our best interests," Kupchella wrote. "Many of these are dynamic and certainly one of them is the availability of conference affiliation."
Thomas said UND will decide in the next 12 days on how it will respond.