Football team leaves Great West for Gateway Football Conference


Staff And Wire Reports

After only four years in the Great West Football Conference, SDSU is saying goodbye.

Last week, SDSU officially became a member of the Gateway Football Conference. The announcement came at a press conference Wednesday, March 7.

“It’s exciting for a lot of reasons,” Head Coach John Stiegelmeier said. “I think the biggest reason is the eight set games, the big conference games.”

The move gives the Jacks a conference home when they become eligible for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) playoffs next year.

“When you win that game to put you in the tournament, you’re in,” Stiegelmeier said. “The objectivity and the clarity of it really allows a league like that to focus on the championship and what it all means. Because only six teams go in Division-I football, those are choice spots.

“You are better off being in a league, even if you are 9-2 and don’t finish first. The credibility of being in a league helps you out.”

Last season, the Jackrabbits were ranked second in the Great West, behind North Dakota State.

Last week, NDSU became a member of the Gateway as well, joining seven other members.

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

Other Gateway schools include Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Missouri State and Youngstown State (Ohio).

But despite the new conference home, SDSU still belongs in the Great West Conference and won’t begin Gateway play until 2008.

“It won’t mean anything for a year,” Stiegelmeier said.

“We play three Gateway schools out of the shoot and I don’t think about that. I just want those to be non-conference games so we can focus on the Great West.”

Stiegelmeier said the team will continue it’s “play-in-the-present” philosophy and goal of going 1-0 every week.

“Our guys understand that you go to attack the concept at hand and really the task now is to get better at spring ball,” He said.

Stiegelmeier talked to the team for the first time Tuesday, March 13. The team begins spring practice March 31.

#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.: