Making some big decisions at Mines
By Jeff Budlong, Journal staff | Sunday, July 26, 2009
RAPID CITY --- New South Dakota School of Mines & Technology athletic director Dick Kaiser has only officially been on the job since July 1, but there will be little time to ease into the position and get used to the new surroundings. Kaiser is charged with several broad tasks as the school’s first full-time athletic director, and chief among those tasks is guiding the athletic department as it contemplates a move up to the NCAA Division II level from NAIA.
First, the new man in charge would just like to meet the coaches and players he will be leading. “I have not been able to meet all of my coaches because they are not always around during the summer,” he said. “The first thing I would like to do is get acquainted with the Rapid City area and particularly those individuals that are interested in School of Mines athletics. “We also need to take a look at our opportunities to either potentially expand the sports we offer or not and what we will do with our affiliation.” With Minot State the latest team to leave the Dakota Athletic Conference — of which both Mines and Black Hills State University are members — questions have grown in recent months about the future of the conference and the two schools appear closer than ever to having to make a decision whether to stay at the NAIA level or make a move. “We have to look at all our options and I would say that whatever South Dakota School of Mines does it wants to do in partnership with Black Hills State,” Kaiser said of any possible move. “Both institutions want to work very closely together to look at the various options, but we do have to look at the options and it would be ideal with whatever we do … for the entire DAC do that rather than splitting up the DAC.” Kaiser said it is a process that “will move rather rapidly��� and decisions could be made one way or the other in the next 12 to 18 months. The move of the entire DAC would benefit Mines because it would allow the school to retain longtime rivalries and keep travel, which is already a major issue for both the Hardrockers and Yellow Jackets, from becoming an even bigger problem in another conference. “Would there be other institutions that would be interested in playing us? Would there be contests we are currently not playing we could get hooked into in a more permanent basis a la Chadron?” Kaiser said. “Even though some of those are still 350 miles away they are still closer than some of the games in the DAC.” A move up a level would have the Hardrockers looking at conferences like the Northern Sun, but even that would not eliminate the travel woes with several hundred miles still separating the schools. That is why having all the DAC schools go Division II at the same time and forming their own conference would be an enticing possibility. The move of South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota to the NCAA Division I level as well as several other schools to Division II throughout the state has lessened NAIA’s impact in the state. A move by Mines to the NCAA would in part be done to keep it in a more competitive arena with other schools when it comes to recruiting student-athletes. “The reality is the NAIA numbers are shrinking, so reality says we have to look at our options,” Kaiser said. A potential move to Division II would mean that the school would have to increase its scholarships and possibly make improvements to facilities, but the question of how competitive the Hardrockers would be remains. “It is definitely a factor and we don’t want to make a jump where you can’t be competitive, but if you decide to make the jump then you also have to make the jump in finances,” Kaiser said. “We would like to think if we would make that move we would continue to be successful in several of the sports we are right now.” The Hardrockers football team enjoyed a .500 season in 2008, but has struggled to reach that level for many years before that, while the volleyball, basketball and track and cross country programs are solid if not conference-title contending programs every year for Mines. Kaiser, who grew up in Colorado, has worked with many coaches and more than 10,000 athletes in a 35-year career. He worked at SDSU and was the defensive coordinator at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. Kaiser later coached at Southwest Oklahoma State as an offensive and defensive line coach before taking the inside linebackers coaching position at Brigham Young University. Kaiser had two more coaching positions at Idaho State and Willamette University, in Salem, Ore. Then, in 1984, Kaiser received a doctorate degree from BYU. For the past 25 years, he has been an athletic director at Willamette, Western Oregon, Olivet College and Defiance College in Ohio — spending the past 10 years at Defiance. All of that experience has prepared him for some of the unique challenges at Mines. “You have got to hope that being in this business since 1974 has prepared me for something. All the years as a coach or athletic director have prepared me for the challenges here,” he said. “The pool of potential recruits is smaller when you have to have a 3.6 (GPA) or higher to get in … but we look at it as a plus rather than a negative because the kind of students we will get have already proven to be academically successful.” The AD believes his new school has many of the things already in place to be successful at whatever level it ends up playing at. “In any institution you can always come up with a wish list of things you would like more of, but overall I think our athletic facilities here are exceptional,” he said. “Our football stadium is first rate and obviously we are a little short in some other areas. We don’t have an indoor training facility for our track athletes and some of our other winter sports, but hopefully that will come some day.” Kaiser will help guide the school on many big decisions in the coming months, but it is also a big part of his job to raise the visibility of Mines in the community. “My job is to be uniquely involved in fundraising, to raise our number of scholarships and raise our exposure in the region by getting out and becoming more visible,” he said. “We would like to have our fair share of attention from the community and get our student-athletes exposed to the community to see how great they are.”
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.