North Dakota State made the Division I move with an announcement in the fall of 2002. Before reaching that historic press conference at the NDSU Alumni Center, research, talk and discussions were at a furious pace for at least a year, if not longer. Granted, it wasn’t the first foray into talk of the Bison moving up — and further evidence came this week from Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh, whose team plays the Bison on Saturday afternoon. When Walsh was the head coach at Portland State, not long after the Vikings made the move to Division I, he was part of discussions with the Bison administration.
“Their director of athletics came out and met with our president and myself,” Walsh said.
That was in 1993. The Bison A.D. at the time was Bob Entzion.
“We had already made the transition and they wanted to talk about how we did it,” Walsh said. “I don’t remember it clearly, but it was about what we did and what we thought about it.”
Back in the day, Portland State as a Division II football school relied heavily on junior college transfers but Walsh said when the Vikings went D1, they changed their philosophy to signing mostly high school recruits. NDSU has always recruited mostly high school players, he said, so he figured the move to Division I wouldn’t be so drastic from the recruiting end.
“We had to go back to go forward because of that JC thing,” Walsh said. “It took three or four years to get it going again. (NDSU’s) transition was much smoother because they’ve always had the tradition of recruiting high school players.”
I wrote a thousand stories on NDSU’s Division I reclassification. This is the first I heard about a trip to Portland in the 1990s to seek information on moving up a division. Obviously, NDSU’s fact-finding mission didn’t get any legs publically after that. Not until Joe Chapman became the NDSU president.