Sports programs boosted by Mid-Continent

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

The conference question has been answered. SDSU athletic teams can now safely call the Mid-Continent Conference home.

The move will provide direction for the Athletic Department in the next few years, said SDSU Athletic Director Fred Oien.

“Now you know how you are going to operate as a program,” he said.

In addition to adding direction and stability to the Athletic Department, joining the Mid-Con benefits the teams in a number of other ways. The move will give teams a better chance at post-season play, allow players to receive awards and make scheduling easier.

The most important reason for joining a conference is a “shot at postseason play because of the automatic qualifier,” said Oien. Conference winners receive automatic bids to the NCAA tournament. All SDSU sports will be eligible for post-season play starting in the 2008-2009 school year, the second year in the conference.

Head Golf Coach Jared Baszler agrees the automatic qualifier is the most important aspect of joining the conference.

“The biggest thing will be the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament,” he said.

“Anytime a team does well on a national scene, it helps us all … a huge momentum builder … a conference helps us gain that,” said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Aaron Johnston.

In addition to post-season play, student athletes are eligible for conference awards, such as player of the week and the all-conference team. Oien identified the opportunity for student athletes to compete for conference awards as one of the important reasons why SDSU needed to be in a conference.

Johnston said the conference affiliation “adds a lot of recognition for athletes … academic awards and competitive awards.”

“It’s good for the student athletes,” Baszler said.

Along with the individual conference awards, SDSU athletic teams will once again have a chance to compete for a conference title.

“The opportunity to compete for a championship is something that is important to the girls,” said Head Softball Coach Shane Bouman.

Playing for the conference title adds a lot of motivation toward the end of the season, Baszler said.

Johnston said the opportunity for a conference championship adds meaning to January and February games, something that has been lacking the past couple of seasons.

The student athletes, along with athletic personnel and SDSU Jackrabbits fans, receive the benefit of a consistent schedule. The admission into the Mid-Con alleviates scheduling difficulties that have plagued the athletic department for the past few seasons. Oien said conference affiliation eases the scheduling burden and ensures good, consistent schedules. Now SDSU players and fans will see the same conference opponents every year.

“(The conference) adds some consistency to the schedule,” said Johnston.

He said the more consistent schedule should build rivalries.

Recruitment will also receive a boost from the conference affiliation.