North Central Conference teams will miss rivalries, continue old traditions


Heather Mangen

SDSU and North Dakota State University are saying good-bye to some old friends. While some say their leave-taking is premature, the two schools themselves feel they have made the best possible decisions for their institutions.

“It’s not easy,” said Gene Taylor, the NDSU Athletic Director. “[But] it will be worth it in the end.”

As SDSU and NDSU move to Division I, they must leave the North Central Conference, the conference SDSU has participated in since the conference was founded in 1921. In fact, SDSU was also one of the founding fathers of the conference.

SDSU and NDSU are part of the NCC with Augustana College, University of South Dakota, University of North Dakota, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State University. But that list keeps changing.

This year SDSU and NDSU are leaving the Division II conference to play with Division I schools. They believe this is right decision.

“It’s a step up for SDSU,” said Fred Oien, the SDSU Athletic Director.

Even though SDSU is leaving the conference, it still thinks highly of the NCC.

“We’re not running from something bad – we are leaving something good for something that is better,” said John Stiegelmeier, the SDSU head football coach.

On Nov. 8, SDSU played their last football game in the NCC and defeated Augustana. Stiegelmeier said it feels awkward to be done with the NCC.

“It was unique to say that’s over now,” he said.

One of the strongest parts of the NCC is the rivalries said Michael Marcil, President of the NCC.

That is something that will be missed.

“We will miss it until we can duplicate it,” said Taylor.

SDSU officials also look back at old rivalries and ahead towards new ones

“I’ll miss the rivalries but I’ll look forward to the new ones,” said Stiegelmeier.

Another thing that Stiegelmeier will miss is visiting with athletes from other teams that he had tried to recruit while they were in high school.

“It was kind of like you were connected with the team,” he said. “It won’t happen with the bigger schools.”

Stiegelmeier said he is excited to play new teams. He believes that this will have a positive impact on his athletes.

“Athletes will push harder and think of themselves as at that DI level,” he said.

However, some athletes aren’t quite as excited.

“I don’t want to get my butt kicked by [big schools],” said freshman offensive linebacker Brock Kale.

It’s not a secret to either school that big changes lie ahead of them.

“All the things we enjoyed in Division II will dramatically change over the next two or three years,” Taylor said.

But SDSU and NDSU are not the only schools to leave the conference in recent years.

Last year, the University of Northern Colorado left the NCC.

Even though leaving the conference was difficult, UNC believes it was the right thing to do.

“We hated to leave but we needed to move on as an institution,” said Jim Falls, UNC Athletic Director.

But that doesn’t mean that other institutions are eager to leave the conference.

“Everybody else is firm in staying in the North Central Conference,” said Marcil.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth will join the NCC to make up for holes that SDSU and NDSU are leaving behind. Marcil believes the institution will give the conference a higher profile in the Twin Cities area. He also believes that Minnesota-Duluth will help the NCC continue to succeed.

“We are going to still be at the very top of Division II,” he said.

The NCC has changed over the years, but Marcil said it is continually getting stronger.

“We believe that our best days are ahead of us,” he said.

However, SDSU and NDSU will be missed, Marcil said.

“We certainly hate to see them go but we will maintain the traditions they helped build,” he said.

Look for “Who will we play next year? Part 2” next week, when we examine the new conference officials from SDSU and other schools are trying to form.