SDSU, NDSU join Gateway Football Conference


Staff And Wire Reports

The Gateway Football Conference boosted its membership to nine schools with the addition Wednesday of South Dakota State and North Dakota State.

The new members will begin play in the Gateway in 2008 when they’ll be eligible for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The subdivision is the former NCAA Division I-AA.

“One can justifiably argue the Gateway is the strongest, deepest and most respected FCS conference in the nation,” said Gateway Commissioner Patty Viverito. “The decision to add North Dakota State and South Dakota State leaves no doubt.”

The two schools began the five-year Division I reclassification together in 2003 and said they would join the Gateway only if both were admitted.

NDSU and SDSU helped form the Great West Football Conference in 2004, along with California Poly, California Davis, Southern Utah, Northern Colorado and St. Mary’s (Calif.) College.

St. Mary’s dropped football and Northern Colorado joined the Big Sky Conference, leaving the Great West with just five teams – one short of the number needed for an automatic playoff bid.

SDSU did not have any contractual obligations forbidding it from leaving the Great West Football Conference.

“We made an agreement when we formed the Great West, that we understood that it was a conference that if Southern Utah got a chance to go someplace with an [automatic qualifier] or Davis, or Cal Poly, or whoever, we would not put those kind of rules in place,” Oien said in Nov. 11, 2006 issue of The Collegian.

At that time, he said if SDSU and NDSU left the Great West, the other schools would probably be hurt, but wasn’t “a ‘hate-us-forever’ kind of deal.”

“One of the nice things about Division-I [university athletic directors] is that they are so focused on doing what’s right for student athletes and what’s best for them,” he said. “They understand this isn’t best for us, but it’s good for your kids.”

Gateway members are Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Missouri State and Youngstown State (Ohio).

North Dakota State won the Great West Football Conference title last year with a 4-0 conference mark and was 10-1 overall. South Dakota State was runner-up in the league, compiling a 3-1 league mark and 7-4 overall record.

“Conferences, in football, really like to have a minimum of eight (teams),” said Oien. “A lot of times, nine works very good in football-only playing conferences, because you can guarantee four home and four away, every year.”

#1.883663:604137187.jpg:oien1.jpg:Athletic Director Fred Oien speaks at a press conference Wednesday, March 7, when officials announced SDSU’s admission to the Gateway.: