NDSU football waits for answers to long list of questions

North Dakota State linebacker Aaron Mercadel
North Dakota State linebacker Aaron Mercadel(KVLY)
Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 9:46 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - A start date for the spring? What fall workouts can look like? Meeting restrictions? Eligibility?

Those are just a few of the questions NDSU still can’t answer because the NCAA hasn’t answered.

“Not being able to supply those answers to our student-athletes is frustrating,” NDSU Director of Athletics Matt Larsen said Monday. “I think we are really going to rely on [the NCAA] and the sooner we can get this information; and it can’t be we get something Friday, and we get something else the next Friday and we get something else the next Friday. We need to have these answers in short order so these student-athletes can figure out their futures.”

Larsen, head football coach Matt Entz and three student-athletes were available to the media Monday via Zoom. It was the first opportunity the media has had to speak to athletes since they got on campus this summer.

One of the biggest questions fans have posted on social media, is why seniors are saying goodbye? And why they couldn’t return this spring?

The NFL draft is one reason. For guys like offensive lineman Dillon Radunz, the opportunity to play at the next level is available. Radunz has been mentioned as a potential draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and with no word of plans for the NFL to delay the draft, it’s in Randunz’s best interest, in the long run, to turn his attention towards preparing for the draft process.

For others like linebacker Aaron Mercadel, the sixth-year senior already graduated and says it’s time to move on with his life.

“It was just kind of that time to stop chasing something that might not be guaranteed and to get on to the next thing,” Mercadel said in explaining his decision to clean out his locker. “I came back to play in the fall so with that not happening I was ready to move on.”

NDSU head football coach Matt Entz wouldn’t confirm any players opting out of the spring season, instead saying he’s invited all of his seniors to return and hopes they will. Still, the senior class had a chance to address their teammates Friday night with a senior night no longer guaranteed.

Those returning this spring are waiting to see what their fall will look like and how this proposed spring season will even shake out.

“All we can do is lift now. Lifting, running routes, throwing with Trey a little bit. I’m going to take advantage as best I can of the situation and then get ready for fall practices. Whatever it may be,” Bison junior wide receiver Phoenix Sproles said.

“All of a sudden we’re looking at a full spring season, followed up by a two month offseason, and another full fall season. I, I guess I can’t see a whole lot of advantage to it,” Bison junior linebacker Jackson Hankey said of the new situation facing the football team. “Obviously I would love if we could have had a normal season in the fall but that’s not what’s happening.”

With plenty of questions lingering for the football team and fall sports, the athletic department’s work is mounting with winter sports knocking on the door.

“Traditionally they start in late October and early November but I think we may be looking at a push there too,” Larsen said.

Larsen admitted things are financially tight within the athletic department right now with football traditionally contributing a great deal to the budget as a whole.

Asked about the possibility of having to cut sports, Larsen said that’s the last resort. Saying instead he is challenging his staff to find new and creative ways to generate revenue.

“That’s the last thing you’d ever want to take a look at,” Larsen said. “Taking away opportunities from student-athletes is always going to be the last possibility, but in tough financial times, we need to make sure we look at everything.”

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