Gateway looks at Jacks

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

Recently, the Gateway Football Conference has asked SDSU for a packet of information, specifically information about the football program. The Gateway conference has also sought information from North Dakota State University.

SDSU Athletic Director Fred Oien said SDSU has been in contact with the Gateway Football Conference on and off for the past five years. He said informal discussions about the possibility of SDSU joining the Gateway conference began six months ago.

The Gateway Football Conference consists of teams from the Midwest, including University of Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Western Kentucky and Youngstown State.

The reason why SDSU and NDSU have been contacted about possible admittance to the Gateway is because of the rumors going on about Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky belongs to the Sun Belt Conference in every sport besides football.

“The discussion on that campus that I’ve read is that Western Kentucky is considering moving their football program to the Sun Belt, which means they would go 1-A, which would leave the Gateway at seven schools,” said Oien. “Conferences, in football, really like to have a minimum of eight (teams). A lot of times, nine works very good in football-only playing conferences, because you can guarantee four home and four away, every year.”

“So the conversations between us and the Gateway have been in lieu of the fact that maybe Western Kentucky leaves,” he said.

Oien said Western Kentucky is expected to announce its decision by Nov. 3.

Because of scheduling concerns from the Gateway schools and for SDSU, Oien expects a decision to be made fairly quickly.

“I would hope no later than April 1. It could occur in November. It’s their decision,” he said.

Nothing will be certain until Western Kentucky decides whether or not it will move to Division I-A football. If the school decides to stay in the Gateway, SDSU and NDSU will not be asked to join. If Western Kentucky decides to leave, it will be up to the Gateway to decide on the timetable. The conference officials need to look at SDSU’s and NDSU’s information, decide if a site visit is in order and then decide if one or both of the schools will be invited to join the Gateway Football Conference.

SDSU does 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 AQ (automatic qualifier) or Davis, or Cal Poly, or whoever, we would not put those kind of rules in place,” Oien said.

He said if SDSU and NDSU left the Great West, the other schools would probably be hurt, but “it isn’t a ‘hate-us-forever’ kind of deal.”

“One of the nice things about Division-I ADs 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 its good for your kids.”

The earliest SDSU would begin Gateway Football Conference play is the 2008-09 school year.