SDSU announces new DI football conference

Crystal Hohenthaner

Crystal Hohenthaner

South Dakota State University’s athletic department announced their charter membership in the Great West Conference, a new Division 1-AA football conference, at Cubby’s Banquet Hall, Tues., Feb. 24.

The schools other than SDSU in the new conference are: California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo, North Dakota State University, Saint Mary’s College (California), Southern Utah University, the University of California-Davis, and the University of Northern Colorado.

As expected, the new conference will mean more traveling for SDSU. Unexpectedly, however the formation of the conference was relatively quick. Men recruited for SDSU’s football team over the last two years had been told that they might not be able to compete for a conference title until 2006.

Athletic director Fred Oien said that the universities and colleges involved began meetings to negotiate the terms of the conference in Orlando a year ago. One such term is that SDSU and all other members must give one year notice before leaving the conference, or the team would have to suffer penalties.

“We are excited about the new opportunities, rivalries and traditions that the new conference represents,” said SDSU’s head football coach John Stiegelmeier.

Stiegelmeier also tried to calm some of the financing fears the audience members posed him at the press conference. He said that with the added travel distance there will be added travel expenses but that, “We’ve been planning for that for a long time.”

Stiegelmeier also suggested that charter flight prices may be supplemented by selling extra seats to team family members and fans, as is the practice of some other DI schools.

A group of SDSU’s football players had highly positive comments regarding the conference formation and announcement.

“You always have to be hungry and want to play football,” said junior wide receiver Solomon Johnson, “but being able to play for a conference is great because there are added awards and incentives.”

Those incentives include the possibility of winning a conference title.

“Before this we were going to be playing for the coaches and each other,” said Chris Coauette. “We’re still going to be doing that, but now we will be able to focus on our goal and a conference championship as well.”

Oien said that the timing for the formation of the conference was just right and that there were, “no hard issues,” in negotiating the conference details. Because the Great West conference is only for football Oien is still negotiating conferences for SDSU’s other sports.