FOOTBALL: Bemidji State exploring non-NSIC matchup; would be a regular season first since 2011
The Beavers have a rare window to schedule a nonconference opponent in a regular season game for the first time since 2011.
BEMIDJI -- Upper Iowa’s impending departure from the NSIC has left a Week 6-sized hole in the Bemidji State football team’s 2023 calendar.
As a result, the Beavers have a rare window to schedule a nonconference opponent in a regular season game for the first time since 2011.
“There are a lot of variables,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said. “The date is probably the hardest one because, in Week 6, there won’t be a lot of open dates available to get a game. We’re looking into it, though. I’m attacking it. Put it on my long list of things to get done.”
Bemidji State last played a regular season nonconference game against Minot State in 2011, when that program was playing an independent schedule while transitioning from NAIA to Division II. Minot State joined the NSIC in 2012.
But for the past decade, it’s been all in-house opponents for the Northern Sun. The NSIC’s 11-game league slate matches the maximum allotment of games for Division II members and therefore doesn’t allow any room for outside competition.
Bemidji State University Football, member of the NSIC, has an open date in Week 6 for Fall 2023. Contact head coach Brent Bolte, email@example.com if interested.— Brent Bolte (@CoachBolte) December 14, 2022
Yet the status quo changed in late November when Upper Iowa announced it was going to leave the NSIC after this school year, leaving 13 football programs in the conference for next fall. That meant each football team could have one bye week or fill the gap with a nonconference opponent.
Bolte said he does want to find a team to play, although a bye week in the middle of the season could also be beneficial.
“I’m actually happy that, if we can’t find an opponent, at least our bye is right smack dab in the middle (of the season),” he said. “We have a really good opponent in Week 5, and we have a good opponent in Week 7. Having a bye in between is a good spot. I’d rather play the game, but we’ve got to look at the criteria of if it’ll help us or hurt us. … We’re doing our best to see if we can get an extra game. If not, we’ll roll with what we’ve got.”
Nonconference opportunities could also help the NSIC as a whole. Because teams don’t play outside the league, postseason rankings can be difficult to quantify. But Northern Sun hopefuls could soon make their case against some new opponents.
“Once you get to the NCAA Tournament, you’re playing folks you’ve never seen before from conferences you’ve never competed against,” BSU athletic director Britt Lauritsen said. “This gives us an opportunity to go seek out really good competition and give us an early marker of where we are with the rest of the region and the rest of Division II.”
Bemidji State has qualified for the NCAA Tournament the past two years, but the Beavers have paired with fellow NSIC teams in the first round each time. BSU has won both postseason openers but gone on to lose to nonconference foes in the next round.
The NSIC hasn’t yet released its 2023 schedule. As it stands, though, Bemidji State has five home games and five road games on the books. If the Beavers schedule an 11th game, it could be at Chet Anderson Stadium or anywhere else in the country -- it all just depends on what logistics get worked out.
“I’ve never done this, so I’m learning on the fly,” Bolte said. “We’re slowly working our way through it and trying to figure out if there’s anybody out there that we can get on the schedule. … It’s neat. It opens up the opportunity to go compete against a different region and put the NSIC out there.”