North Dakota State president: Some texts 'not appropriate'

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Posted: Aug 08, 2016 2:58 PM
North Dakota State president: Some texts 'not appropriate'

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said Monday that some text messages he sent regarding heavily criticized and now-rescinded media guidelines for covering Bison athletics were "not appropriate."

Bresciani in a campus-wide email also continued to maintain that he wasn't consulted on the guidelines that were roundly panned by journalists and on social media before NDSU scrapped them after just four days.

Bresciani said he was at a funeral out of state when the guidelines were made public, "but the explosive reaction on social media ... quickly made me aware (of) them."

The rules issued July 29 primarily involved restrictions on live broadcasting, internet streaming and social media posts at sporting events for media outlets that didn't have contracts to broadcast basketball and football games. NDSU — whose football team is the five-time defending Football Championship Subdivision champion — issued a follow-up statement the next day saying the conditions were needed to protect the commercial interests of stations paying the Fargo school for exclusive rights to TV and radio broadcasts.

Three days later, on Aug. 2, NDSU issued a statement rescinding the guidelines. It said Bresciani had not been informed of the guidelines in advance, and quoted him as saying "I was profoundly disappointed when I learned the facts about this issue."

Text messages from Bresciani to Athletic Director Matt Larsen late on July 29 and early on July 30 that were obtained by blogger Rob Port appeared to contradict Bresciani's "profoundly disappointed" mood.

In one text about a newspaper reporter's response to the new rules, Bresciani wrote Larson, "to make you smirk." In another exchange, Larsen wrote that he was going to "circle the wagons with staff," to which Bresciani replied that he thought it was a "good idea."

Bresciani in his Monday email acknowledged initially supporting the guidelines.

"I now understand that my initial support was misplaced and some of my text communications were not appropriate," he wrote.

In another text the day before the guidelines were rescinded, Bresciani told Larsen to "control the spin" and to "own the decision as yours not something you were told you had to do." He added that he would back the athletic director.

NDSU spokeswoman Laura McDaniel said Monday that during that exchange, Bresciani was coaching Larsen on how to approach a possible meeting with upset media members about potential changes to the guidelines. She acknowledged that "control the spin" was "a bad word choice," but that "it was absolutely not (Bresciani) saying, 'You tell everybody this is your fault.'"

In the school's Aug. 2 statement rescinding the guidelines, Larsen apologized, said he "erred in not bringing these ideas forward for the president's review" and regretted "the damage this has caused" NDSU and its administration.

Larsen did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

State Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks, chairman of the state Legislature's Interim Higher Education Committee, said Monday that he thinks the guidelines were "ill-advised."

"That's kind of the heart of all of this," he said.

A Fargo newspaper has publicly called for Bresciani to resign. Sanford declined to comment on whether he thought NDSU needed new leadership, saying Bresciani's future is up to the state Board of Higher Education.

The board, which oversees North Dakota's public colleges and universities, in June decided to put off voting on a contract extension for Bresciani until November. It said it wanted to review his progress on meeting goals on teamwork, communication, collaboration, information technology and research.

University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Higher Education Chairwoman Kathleen Neset was traveling and not immediately available for comment. Vice Chairman Don Morton declined comment, referring questions to Neset.

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