UPDATED: Text Messages Show NDSU President Dean Bresciani Initially Supported Restrictive Media Rules

NDSU photo of President Dean Bresciani NDSU photo of Dean Bresciani

Earlier this week North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani announced that he was “profoundly disappointed” in restrictions on the media instituted by the university’s athletics department, but in text messages to Athletic Director Matt Larsen he struck a much different tone.

I obtained a copy of the text messages through an open records request for any cellular phone text messages sent between President Bresciani and any other member of the NDSU administration pertaining to the media rules. You can read all of the texts that request produced below, but this exchange between Bresciani and Larsen are perhaps the most pertinent.

They appear to begin with Bresciani responding by text to a call from Larsen on Friday, July 29. The conversation begins again on Saturday, July 30.

In it Bresciani doesn’t express disappointment in the media rules. Far from it. He supports Larsen in his efforts to justify the rules to the media, and cracks jokes with him about critical coverage of the rules coming from the Fargo Forum (full disclosure: I’m employed by the Forum Communications Company).

Larsen says that if Forum Communications had won their bid for rights to broadcast Bison games they’d want the same media restrictions. “Of course and great point!” Bresciani responded.

“To make you smirk…Kohlpack [sic] just texted Kristi to make his case,” Bresicani also texted referring to WDAY sports reporter Jeff Kolpack (also a FCC employee). I’m not sure who “Kristi” is:

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Again, Bresciani condemned these media rules earlier this week. Compare and contrast what he said when he sent out a statement to overturn the rules (see below) with the tone of his texts above:

“I was profoundly disappointed when I learned the facts about this issue,” Bresciani said in a news release. “This is not the way NDSU treats local journalists and our many loyal fans who value the breadth of news coverage NDSU enjoys. As the state’s land grant university, our commitment is to access and inclusion in all endeavors.”

Athletic Director Matt Larsen also apologized in the release: “I erred in not bringing these ideas forward for the president’s review, and I regret the damage this has caused to the administration, institution and university community.”

For Bresciani to say he was “profoundly disappointed” when he first learned of the restrictive and ridiculous media rules simply does not jibe with his texts to Larsen where he supported efforts to defend the rules and even mocked those critical of them.

On Sunday, Bresciani was even telling Larsen to “control the spin”:

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Why would Bresciani be urging Larsen to spin these media rules which he later claimed he was “profoundly disappointed” in?

I don’t know how anyone reading these texts can conclude that Bresciani first tried to defend the restrictive new media rules and, when that didn’t work, decided to throw his athletic director under the bus while portraying himself as the hero on the white horse who got rid of the rules.

Which is not, I think, an accurate portrayal of what happened. I hope that North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education, which earlier this year delayed renewal of Bresciani’s contract pending improvement in his job performance, are paying attention.

UPDATE: Here’s a more explicit confirmation that Bresciani supported the media policy, and was not at all appalled, from an email dated July 31. It was in response to an email sent by an alumnus upset about the media policy. Bresciani says he doesn’t want to demean himself by responding to the alumnus, but made it clear that he supported at that time the media policy:

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Remember that in his first public statement about the media rules Bresciani said he was “profoundly disappointed.” But here he says he fully supports and agrees with the policy which was executed expert professionals.

The email came from a records request filed by state Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) filed separately from mine. Streyle shared the results of his request with me this evening. You can read all the emails he received here (I haven’t gone through them thoroughly yet). The email pictured above is on page 115. The email Bresciani is responding to is on page 120.

Here are all the texts:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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