Bison football officials say they keep close tabs on booster activity
FARGO - The lot at the Fargodome where North Dakota State football players park their cars is not a place where Thursday Broadway cruisers would stop and gawk. The cars are closer to $500 in value than the '57 Thunderbirds you would find on Broadway.
And, in a hypothetical scenario, if a T-bird did show up in the lot, a member of the football staff would probably ask the question: How were you able to get that?
"You know where these guys are from and all of a sudden there's somebody driving something that looks outside of their pay scale, you have to wonder," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl.
Bohl said the staff documents the cars of its players.
"By and large, our guys are driving pickups or late-model cars," he said.
It's all under the guise of "it can happen anywhere" because it, reportedly, happened in a big way at the University of Miami. Yahoo! Sports' investigative report detailed the apparent shenanigans of booster Nevin Shapiro with several years of hob-knobbing with Hurricanes players.
It was lavish. It was expensive.
Could that happen in Fargo?
Instead of parties on yachts, dinners and soirees at posh restaurants and nightclubs on the Miami strip and cash payments, perhaps a more realistic cheating level at NDSU would be a cruise on a lake pontoon, dinner at a chain restaurant and 20 bucks to go to a movie.
Whatever the case, it still would be illegal under NCAA rules.
Now fifth-year seniors, running back D.J. McNorton and defensive end Coulter Boyer have heard NDSU administrators and coaches preach about those same rules over and over again.
"They stay on us about that," McNorton said. "I don't think we've had any of that at this level, but then again there could be some stuff out there."
Boyer said the Miami story is bad for college sports in general, and it's something not found in Fargo.
"It's not something we have to worry about or even think about," he said.
But NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said he worries about it.
"If you don't, then you're sticking your head in the sand," he said.
NDSU has had players get in trouble with the law over the years. They've been suspended or kicked off the team.
But there has yet to be a booster-to-player incident that has made the news.
"I think we have donors here that ask a lot of questions and are more concerned about not wanting to hurt the program then wanting to do something wrong to hurt the program," Taylor said.
Taylor was asked about Shapiro, a Miami booster, leading the Hurricanes onto the football field before a game. He laughed, saying he can't imagine that happening at the Fargodome.
Furthermore, Taylor said, NDSU is careful about who it allows on the sidelines.
"Occasionally, I'll take somebody down with me," he said. "We've been on the road at Minnesota or Kansas, and I personally have provided it, but I know the donors well enough ... and I'm usually with them."
It's been obvious over the years that Bohl pays attention to people in and around the Bison practice fields. Whether it's paranoia of somebody associated with another program or any other reason, Bohl's awareness of his surroundings rarely, if ever, takes a day off.
On Wednesday, Bohl noticed a man watching practice at the grass practice fields, and the coach almost immediately came over and introduced himself. The man is a radio spotter for home broadcasts and wanted to check out the team before the first game.
He certainly wasn't a Nevin Shapiro wanna-be.
"You look at who's hanging around your program and you look at who's hanging around your athletes," Taylor said. "You would hope you have a culture of compliance that if somebody saw or were concerned about something, they would tell somebody."
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found