SDSU to create new DI sports alliance?

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

SDSU and NDSU are in the early stages of discussing the formation of a new Division I-AA football conference.

Interested schools could start talking as early as the end of this month, said Gene Taylor, NDSU athletic director. The schools would want to start playing at the start of the 2004-05 season.

The new league could be composed of SDSU, NDSU, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, Southern Utah State College-Cedar City, St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., the University of California-Davis and the University of Northern Colorado.

The formation of a new league would prove ideal for proclaimed DI traveling partners SDSU and NDSU, as well as for Northern Colorado and Cal-Davis. All four are currently moving to the NCAA DI.

Nailing down a suitable conference is the final hurdle in SDSU’s quest for reclassification to DI. Fred Oien, SDSU athletic director, has repeatedly said that a move to DI will not happen until a conference is in place.

Locating a conference has been difficult. Last month SDSU got the cold shoulder from the Big Sky Conference, the league university officials had deemed the most suitable.

Oien said the formation of a new football conference has always been an option.

“We have always known that if we were able to get into a conference without football, and the Gateway football Conference was not interested in expansion, the option of coming together with other schools and potentially forming a football-only conference is there,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

If SDSU were to join a new football-only conference, however, all other Jack’s sports would have to move together to an existing DI conference.

Potential non-football conferences that have been mentioned include the Missouri Valley Conference and the Horizon League. At this time, neither has been formally approached.

Oien said certain NCAA regulations would have to be followed for the creation of a DI football league to be successful.

However, he said it would be easier than building a whole new conference for all sports because there would be more guidelines, rules and regulations to follow.

Oien said individual talks with other interested schools continue.