Forum Communications and state board texts and emails show disagreement over NDSU media restrictions

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The football season is only days away and NDSU's new media restrictions have been in the spotlight this past month. NDSU President Dean Bresciani was criticized over the guidelines that some in local media felt were too restrictive. Now, newly uncovered documents show disagreement at the state level and in local media regarding how the process was handled and if Bresciani did anything wrong.

We here at Valley News Live and Radio FM Media won the bids for broadcast but we thought it was important to show you that NDSU's media restrictions presented last month are only new to this area but not to other schools in the state.

If you go back a few weeks ago, NDSU announced guidelines on how local media can cover their teams. It included things like only three minutes of video could be used from a single game. That video is allowed to be used on the web. Other guidelines: no live reports from game locations 30 minutes before and after a broadcast, and blogs and social media posts are permitted during games, but they cannot describe play-by-play of the game.

NDSU also issued guidelines on interviews. Requests for interviews must be made 24 hours in advance and no more one-on-one interviews with head coaches during the season.

NDSU isn't much different than other schools in the region. Take the University of North Dakota for example. They only allow 2.5 minutes of video to be used in a newscast for only seven days following the event. Video can be shown on media websites.

At the University of Nebraska, which is in the Big 10 Conference, they allow just two minutes of game video to be shown in newscasts in the following seven days. Video cannot be placed online.

NDSU and UND fall under the NCAA, which places additional restrictions on media entities. They stipulate a media group may blog during the game but cannot produce any form of a "real time description of the event" and limits their live abilities.

Local media that did not win the bids were upset. Forum Communications was one that was very vocal about the change, even calling in one editorial for NDSU President Dean Bresciani to resign.

But they wanted restrictions if they won the bid. In their TV proposal they asked for exclusive pre and post-game access in the locker rooms, barring any other media. They also made unusual requests beyond restrictions like this one, asking for NDSU to share in the cost for expensive lenses for their broadcast cameras. They also asked for money back from the five-time national champions if they didn't win at least eight games.

The Forum soon began to ask the State Board of Higher Education for comments and actions on the new guidelines. A statement was released by the board claiming they were processing the information and "this new development is serious and consistent with communications issues the board previously identified in Dr. Bresciani's improvement plan.”

But not everyone on the board agreed with that statement. Documents obtained by Valley News Live show multiple board members felt the statement was out of line. North Dakota University System board member Kari Reichert questioned why the statement was released and wrote in a text message forwarded by NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott, "Yesterday's statement hastily and unnecessarily threw fuel on a fire that our board should be helping to extinguish."

Other messages show employees at Forum Communications questioning the honesty of Bresciani and claiming their company was targeted. Board member Greg Stemen wrote in a text message to talk show host Mike McFeely "competition allows you to get better every day, not a great decision to limit it or constrain it." McFeely responded "Bingo, Nail in DB coffin. Dumb asses." Stemen responds saying he doesn't think that, and believes "stuff with Dean are progressing" and it was ultimately a poor decision by the athletic department and Dean signed off on it.

McFeely later says "the Forum Comm Bid was not one they were going to accept but the additional restrictions were over the top. It's an FCS school, for goodness sake. They were trying to protect Jim Ingstads radio station and screw us. Not acceptable."

So where does everything stand?

NDSU rescinded the restrictions and announced they will spend more time studying the issue.

The State board of Higher Education plans to discuss Bresciani at their November meeting however it's unclear what, if anything, will come out of that meeting.

NDSU did not want to comment on the text messages and emails. Radio FM Media would only say they are proud to have been awarded radio coverage rights. We reached out to McFeely for a comment regarding his texts and he didn't answer our request for an explanation of his texts.

If you'd like to see all of the documents from the bid process the contracts, as well as the texts and emails, click the links next to this story.
Correction - The text message originally identified as having been sent by NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott was mistakenly identified as coming from Hagerott due to the forwarding process. The text was actually sent by NDUS board member Kari Reichert. We apologize for the error.

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