Task force recommends USD move to Division 1

Associated Press

Associated Press

VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) – The University of South Dakota’s athletic review task force has recommended the school pursue NCAA Division I classification for athletics, with Division I-AA for football, the Yankton Press & Dakotan reported online Tuesday.

The task force gave its report and recommendation to USD President Jim Abbott on Monday.

Abbott said he will make a final decision by next month – the deadline for notifying North Central Conference officials of any intent to withdraw from the league.

The task force will host open forums on campus to discuss the findings and recommendation.

The 26-member task force met Friday to complete its report.

“We hit the (Monday) deadline, and the credit goes to (co-chairs) Tina Keller and John Lillibridge for putting the information together and getting it to the president on the day it was asked for back in July,” said Joel Nielsen, University of South Dakota athletic director.

USD has also contracted with Inter-Collegiate Athletic Consulting to aid in the process. That group’s managing director, Andy Fellingham, told gatherings in Vermillion, Sioux Falls and Rapid City last week that his firm recommends reclassifying to Division I and I-AA in football.

Fellingham’s group also advised seeking membership in the Mid-Continent Conference and the Great West Football Conference, and aligning with UND, which already has announced its move to Division I, to make a more attractive package for conference affiliation, the Press & Dakotan reported.

Fellingham said USD would need to examine its long-term facility needs and anticipate raising about $1.9 million more per year over its current athletic budget of around $5 million.

Abbott does not have to follow either the task force or ICAC recommendations.