- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - More than two years after becoming a full-fledged Division II member and joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, Minot State University is still struggling to attract talent.

The stigma associated with north central North Dakota is hurting the school’s chances at recruitment, according to several MSU coaches. Even with improved facilities and adequate scholarships, many prospective athletes are still deterred from attending MSU because of its location.

Its proximity to Canada creates the perception that Minot is a barren, desolate land, MSU wrestling coach Robin Ersland told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/13NpWEC ).

“Location is a problem,” he said. “We’re 60 miles from Canada, and so the perception out there is we are the end of the world and there is nothing here.”

And others agree that it’s often a difficult task to break that mindset. MSU baseball coach Brock Weppler said he believes the school would have better luck recruiting athletes who actually visit the campus.

“If you’re talking to a kid out of Chicago, Illinois, Arizona or wherever it may be, a lot of times I’ll make an icebreaker with it and say, ‘Look, we’re bigger than 5,000 people, we do have running water, we do have vehicles up here,’” Weppler said.

Because of the school’s remote location, MSU coaches are forced to spend more than twice the recruiting hours and money as many of their opponents.

“So for instance, (assistant) Jack (Nelson) and Kevin (Hurd), my grad assistant, left today at 10 a.m. to watch two games in Minneapolis,” MSU men’s basketball coach Matt Murken said. “They’ll get back at 5 in the morning. There’s teams in our league that can leave after practice at 5 tonight and go see those games and then be back by midnight. It’s the time and the cost. The cost adds up.”

More than 76 percent of MSU athletes come from other states because North Dakota’s sparse population produces fewer high-level athletes.

MSU Athletic Director Rick Hedberg and assistant athletic director for development Chad McNally are continuing to spearhead an effort to provide top-notch facilities to combat the disadvantage of the school’s location. The school has spent nearly $10 million improving Herb Parker Stadium over the past four years.

“We’ve made some pretty good strides in our facilities,” Hedberg said. “We’re definitely not at the top … But I think we’ve got adequate facilities for the time being, but we’ve got to address some of these issues in the near future. We’ve got some plans to do some of those things.”

Coaches also rely on scholarships to give MSU a competitive edge when trying to sway a recruit against other schools.

Hedberg said $1.1 million in academic aid was budgeted for the current academic year.

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