Minot State's move could create ripple effect
By Jeff Budlong, Journal staff | Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The news of Minot State’s decision to make a formal application to move from NAIA to NCAA Division II came with little surprise to Black Hills State and South Dakota School of Mines. “We knew they have been looking at it for two years now, and now they will be putting their application in by June 1,” BHSU athletic director Jhett Albers said.
The move to Division II would be the second by a Dakota Athletic Conference team in recent years after the University of Mary made the switch in 2005. Dakota Athletic Conference commissioner Lavern Jessen was disappointed by the announcement, but still believes his conference and NAIA athletics are strong in this part of the country. “It is disappointing losing a conference member without any real prospect to replace them, and it puts the conference in a difficult situation with scheduling with just seven teams,” he said. “I don’t feel (the NAIA is suffering) because it has grown the last three years.” Optimism was not shared about the conference’s future by Minot State. “For our league, there is a lot of uncertainty, uncertainty with our region,” said MSU head men’s basketball coach Mike Hultz. “We (MSU coaches) agree that in the long term, this gives us security of where we are going to be. “When Mary left a few years ago, they knew their future,” he said. “Our league is going to scramble a little bit losing us, but if we were to stay, we might be the school scrambling. We are trying to be progressive.”
With only seven teams in the Dakota Athletic Conference, it makes things rather difficult for the football scheduling having to play the same team twice in the same season. Photo by Brad Blume Black Hills State has also been looking at the Division II level, according to Albers, but nothing formal has been announced. “We talk about it each year because you have to do what is best for you, but we have not formally done anything,” he said. “I think you have to take a year or two to look at it, get all the facts and information and take a year to do it.” Mines has not made any recent desires known to move up to Division II, but it did recently hire its first full-time athletic director, which would help to evaluate a move like that. Jessen said he was confident that Minot State’s application would be accepted and it would be accepted into the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference calling it a “done deal.” As for where the DAC goes from here, that decision will become clearer beginning today when the conference’s athletic directors gather for a meeting in Spearfish today at 12:30 p.m. MDT. “I am sure that is when we’ll discuss the effects of this,” Albers said. The biggest problems for the DAC created by this move is scheduling and traveling partners for a conference that is spread out over many hundreds of miles. “This creates a problem with an odd number of schools with traveling partners, so someone gets left out,” Albers said. Jason Henry, the head men’s basketball coach at Mines, said the biggest issue would come if two more schools left the DAC putting it under the needed six to qualify as a conference that can receive an automatic bid to NAIA postseason tournament play. “We love the national tournaments, and it is really one of the perks that the NAIA has that you just don’t have at Division II,” Henry said. Scheduling becomes most difficult for football. “You don’t want to have to play everyone in your conference twice a season, and we have already had to do that with some schools,” Mines head football coach Dan Kratzer said. “It is not an ideal situation, but it probably won’t really impact us for another two or three years.”
If the conference drops below six teams then the DAC loses its eligibility to send league champions to post season play. Photo by Brad Blume
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