When the UND athletic department emailed out the official release of the 2011 Sioux football schedule, the headline read ‘North Dakota football fans treated to six-game home package in 2011′.
Treat? Sioux fans are crying trick.
The angst comes from a schedule that features three games against opponents either at the NAIA level or freshly transferring out of the NAIA andÂ a season opener against a non-scholarship Division I school.
The fury over the schedule is understandable. It’s certainly not pretty.
It’s also not catastrophic. If there was no Big Sky on the horizon, flipping cars and rioting in the streets would be reasonable. The good news for the school and its fans is that this is the final year of an unattractive slate. In 2012, the Sioux will finally have the luxury of filling out a full conference schedule as a member of the Big Sky Conference.
If you take a quick read of fan reaction via siouxsports.com, UND athletic director Brian Faison and the athletic department as a whole are coming under considerable fire.
Personally, I can’t pretend to know the rigors of scheduling for a Division I independent with a patchwork five-team make-believe conference. If the schedulers-that-be say nobody attractive wants to come here in the heart of conference season,Â I’ll buy that.Â
So to me, Sioux fans are misdirecting their hate. They shouldÂ concerned with two things withÂ the 2011 schedule: 1.Â Will it put butts in the seats and make some money; 2. Will it prepareÂ UND for 2012, a seasonÂ the program has been building forÂ during the entire transition.
Attendance willÂ be tied to performance on the field. Sioux fans will support a winner, or at least one showing exceptional promise againstÂ FBS opponents. If UND shows signs of life against Idaho and Fresno State, the Sept. 24 game against Black Hills State won’t be a disaster.
But if the Sioux are unimpressive in the season opener against Drake and post back-to-back 45-0 beatdowns against Fresno and Idaho, those contests against Black Hills State, Montana Western and Sioux Falls are going to have tumbleweed and crickets aplenty.
What would seem to be evenÂ more concerning is the schedule’s ability to prepare the Sioux for a full-on Big Sky schedule in 2012. If things go asÂ expected (I’m stretching a little bit here to make a point), there are six games on theÂ 11-game 2011 slate that won’t be within 20 points. That’s going to make the 2012 schedule a real smack in the face.
And there’s actually a third angle Sioux fans need to worry over: 2009 UND vs. Sioux FallsÂ Version 2.0.