The UND athletic department delivered an important message on Wednesday.

The important message, though, wasn’t just about the actual additional funding being provided to the athletes at UND through the NCAA’s cost of attendance measure.

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No, the key statement in this movement was more about what this announcement portrays about the vision of the athletic department. More specifically, this says something about how the athletic department is willing to spend money on something outside of its cash cow, men’s hockey.

And, please, don’t get caught up in weighing whether providing this cost is the right ethical move. You’re way behind the conversation because that debate has been taking place for years and now the legislation is rolling through. By the way, support for student athletes has been dominating that debate for a long time now.

Instead of challenging the merit of this additional money, give kudos to UND. Not for pampering the athlete, but the congratulations is in store for quickly recognizing the importance of this movement and its impact on the university’s public perception.

This decision should be celebrated for its foresight. If UND doesn’t go down this path, the common opinion of the school is that it’s not willing to go the extra mile financially to be successful ... especially outside the hockey world.

This time, unlike the region’s move from NCAA Division II to Division I, UND isn’t going to fall behind North Dakota State or South Dakota State when it comes to progressive NCAA matters.

This time, UND is on the front line of an important movement.

UND needed to align itself with like-minded schools when it comes to providing the type of support necessary to be a major player in FCS athletics.

The school’s indoor practice facility was an excellent step in proving its proper athletic support and coming out early in this national issue is another vital move in working toward competitive success.

The school did the right thing in bucking the trend of other Big Sky Conference programs who have turned a blind eye to this legislation because they don’t fight for recruits against schools who offer this additional portion of the scholarship.

UND was able to see that it doesn’t recruit against the Big Sky, even if that realization meant that UND needed to travel down an expensive path. UND knows it recruits against North Dakota State, South Dakota State, South Dakota, Omaha, etc.

If those other programs have these recruiting luxuries, then UND needed them, too.

UND needed them both because they wanted to win over recruits and because it needed to send a message to the region that UND is serious about its place in mid-major athletics.