UND is in discussions with the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Summit League about feasible timelines to leave the Big Sky Conference, according to text messages obtained by the Herald.
On Oct. 20, UND athletic director Brian Faison sent a picture text to Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito. The picture appears to be an outline of steps from the Big Sky Conference sent to UND explaining the process to exit the league.
Step 2 on the document in the picture says: "If, prior to Nov. 1, 2016, UND provides notice of intent to withdraw effective June 30, 2017, the conference will waive notice fee."
That Nov. 1 deadline has since changed, according to a Herald source.
Step 3 says: "Following withdrawal date, UND will no longer be considered a conference member and therefore ineligible for all conference championships, but the conference will honor the current football schedule through fall 2019."
Faison then texted Viverito to look at Step 3 and says "makes our request to you for 2019, but looks like it gives you the time you are going to need. They apparently are not going to share any of this publicly (although it is already on the rumor mill cycle). Still need to hear from Tom on what the Summit comfort level is with 2017-18 versus 2018-19."
Faison is presumably referring to Summit League commissioner Tom Douple.
On Oct. 17, Faison texted Douple "Please call me and fill me in on your conversations with Andrea and Patti (sic) in Chicago as you have the time. If there is no wiggle room from Big Sky and Missouri Valley then we are ready to go for 18-19, if we have football protected in 2018 and 2019. For 2017-18, we would still be in Big Sky for our sports programs (including football) unless things change dramatically."
Douple responds later that day to say he will visit with Andrea, presumably new Big Sky Conference commissioner Andrea Williams, and Viverito on Oct. 18-19.
This summer, UND President Mark Kennedy asked UND's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee to consider the potential of cuts to the athletic department's sports sponsorships, as well as revisiting conference membership.
Although the merits of the Big Sky Conference and the Summit League were discussed during the IAC's process, the committee elected last month to allow the president flexibility when it came to entertaining conference membership.
UND has been in the Big Sky Conference since 2012.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference features 10 programs, including North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State. NDSU, USD and SDSU are also members of the nine-team Summit League, which doesn't sponsor football.