The most inevitable aspect of change in sports is casualities.
With Minot State University transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II provisional status, expectations by the alumni, students, and the Beavers' fan base will be initially high.
Here's the biggest question: Will it be fair?
In order to quantify the expectations, Beaver fans and alumni first must comprehend the magnitude of transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
Sports information director for Upper Iowa, Howard Thompson was an assistant basketball coach at Upper Iowa when it transitioned from NCAA Division III to Division II in 2005.
He painted a transparent picture when he described the change as "like sending the lambs to slaughter."
Only two coaches from Upper Iowa survived the transition from Division III to Division II, and with the 27-0 loss to Bemidji State, it's hard to not think of the pressure Coach Paul Rudolph will be under to be competitive when looking at everything he is up against.
When Rudolph heard the news that MSU was transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II, his knee-jerk reaction was apprehension.
"There is a lot of anxiety," Rudolph said of the initial transformation. "You have an administration that has never been through a transition, you have a fan base and alumni, and there is a lot of media out there. Everyone has an opinion, and it is probably more of a challenge then it ever used to be to get on the same page."
Rudolph projects a subtle confidence. He has this monstrous task under control.
"We are not afraid of (the change)," Rudolph said. "And we have a pretty good idea on how we want to approach things, and what we want to do. We feel we know what to do to be successful, and now we have to go and do it."
Stand back: Rudolph has been in this game a minute.
In 1990, Rudolph inherited a monumental task at Upper Iowa. He had to transform an NCAA Division III team, at the time, that had 26 consecutive losing seasons in a row. He slowly and steadily changed the culture of the program.
"Their fan base had been through a lot of losing years, and they were ready to jump on board with you," Rudolph said. "Here, nobody has been through an independent schedule. You never know how they are going to react, and what they will see."
The challenge at Upper Iowa was to change the culture of losing. Rudolph said it took him five seasons to really change that culture, and felt it was debatable whether he ever completely did. One aspect he felt he changed was getting the kids to believe they could win. Regardless of wins or losses, isn't that what a good coach does?
The title of coach and teacher are interchangeable, and now in this society driven by instant gratification, a coach generally is expected to win at all costs, regardless of the level he is at. While the expectation is fair, it isn't always realistic at first.
In a recent interview with a former Minnesota Vikings Hall-of-Fame defensive end, Alan Page stated "football was a business when he played, it was a business after he played, and it will always be a business."
However, what Page failed to address was the culture change of the business, and the expectations of the fans who now have access to information in this point-and-click world. There is much more media scrutiny and many more expectations. The almighty win-at-all-cost mentality has been embedded in this new generation of fans.
The expectations are high from people who aren't fully aware of just how mentally taxing it is to please the fan base that has a vested interest in the product, and deal with all the bureaucracies that come with the title of "coach of a program." It must be an exhausting task.
"The biggest concern, as far as the transition goes, is just hearing (our program) be compared to other teams we haven't played yet," Rudolph said. "And being compared to schools that the good majority of alumni and students haven't seen becomes a frustration."
Given all the factors accompanied with the change, let's hope the MSU student body, alumni association, and faculty all exercise patience with Rudolph during this time. He runs a clean program, the players respect him, and you get the general sense they are better men for having played under him. In this first couple of seasons, the win and loss record should be inconsequential because Rudolph has what it takes to lead his team to four victories this year, which should be considered nothing less than remarkable. Stand back. Coach Paul Rudolph's got this program under control.