The University of North Dakota has completed a five-year plan for making its transition to Division I athletics, and appears to have done it quite well. Providing the "Fighting Sioux" nickname issue doesn't blow up again, the school is set to join the Big Sky Conference and take on all the other trappings of its peers along Interstate-29 -- North Dakota State, South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota.
Because those schools have historically attracted a large number of Minnesota athletes, it will provide another option for athletes who don't attract -- or don't have interest in -- the University of Minnesota.
University of North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison told Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald: “Who would think we’d be where we are today in the final lap of the transition? It’s remarkable in terms of the competitiveness of our programs, the ability to perform in the classroom and the expansion of our community service.”
There were troubles at first: Miller's report points out that the blending of Division I recruits and holdover Division II athletes didn't always go smoothly. The football team, for example, put one of its assistants in change of team-building exercises. The school found a temporary home in the Great West Conference -- a misnomered name of a league that extends from coast-to-coast and includes such schools as UC Davis, Chicago State and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Football scheduling was tough because the Great West had only five teams -- and the nonconference schedule veered wildly from such schools as Fresno State to tiny Black Hills State.
According to school data, the move hasn't affected the overall GPA of athletes, which has stayed in the 3.1 range.
Miller's story includes interesting data and anecdotes. To read it, click here.
And if you want to see a story about the results of a recent poll about the nickname issue, which will be voted upon on June, 12, click here.