USD joins old rivals in Missouri Valley

Travis Kriens

Travis KriensRivalry Rock Star

The University of South Dakota accepted an invitation into the Missouri Valley Football Conference Nov. 4 after considering joining the Big Sky in all sports.

This is not only a good decision on the part of the Coyotes, but it also helps SDSU.

USD stays in the Summit League, which was in danger of dropping to eight teams with the departures of Southern Utah and Centenary, and the move reignites the in-state football rivalry that fans have been clamoring for since the two teams last met in 2003. USD and SDSU will meet in football in 2012.

The whole process of USD being offered in the MVFC was a rather quick one. Earlier in the week, on Nov. 2, the athletic directors of the nine current conference schools, had some conference calls about USD joining the league. They needed to determine whether that was something that would help the Summit League and the MVFC.

The partnership that the commissioners of the Summit League and the MVFC had over the past months was vital to the process. Since the Summit doesn’t offer football, four Summit teams (SDSU, USD, NDSU and Western Illinois) call the MVFC home, while the remaining six Summit schools don’t have football programs.

For the Coyotes to stay in the Summit, they pretty much had to get invited into the MFVC or risk their football program living in independent hell for who knows how many years. If USD had gone to the Big Sky, it would have been for all sports, not just football.

That meant the Summit League losing a team that officials were expecting to start competing in the conference starting next season.

“(Summit Commissioner) Tom Douple and Patty Viverito (MVFC Senior Associate Commissioner) have worked really well together,” said SDSU athletic director Justin Sell. They have been forthcoming and open with each other all along.”

“They wanted to protect Midwest, FCS football,” Sell continued. “With all the different scenarios that are out there and all the teams changing leagues, it’s nice to have a couple commissioners that can be on the same page and openly discuss those things and be ready to make some moves if certain things happen. It’s a tough time right now because you don’t want a knee-jerk reaction. You want to do your homework. You want to get your information together, but at the same time, you have to be prepared to move quickly when necessary.”

Now with 10 teams in the Missouri Valley and only eight conference games, that means the likely scenario of each team not playing one conference team during the season.

“If you are going to crown a champion, (I feel that) you have to play everybody,” said SDSU head football coach John Stiegelmeier, “Unless you get to a number that is a lot greater then what we have.”

In terms of on the field, the USD game will be like the annual NDSU game and the Nebraska game earlier in the season in that fans and the media will hype those games up, even if the coaches and players approach those games just like every other game.

“We are not going to look at the USD game as “the game”,” said Stiegelmeier. “We’re not going to look at it as a game that makes your season.

It’s going to be a game that if we are lucky enough to win it, it adds to the goal of competing to win a national championship. That’s our vision and that’s our goal here and it always will be and has been since we have made this move (to Division I).”

As far as the Summit League goes, many within the league and observers on the outside had UND penciled in right along with USD as joining the league in the next year or two. With UND choosing to join the Big Sky, that leaves the Summit with nine teams for the future instead of the current 10 that they have right now.

“I would think in the next year there’s going to be some changes and some things could happen,” Sell said about expanding the Summit League. “There are still some things that will take place so you just have to be prepared. We are in a good position. We have a great athletic program. We have two leagues that we are very happy with that are solid right now. As things change, we have to be prepared to make adjustments as well.”

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