Oien admits Big Sky could be out of reach for SDSU

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

The recent formation of a Division I transition team has taken SDSU one step closer to athletic reclassification. Now all that is needed is a suitable conference.

Officials thought the most suitable candidate was the Big Sky Conference, just to the west. However, in a recent meeting of conference officials, it was decided that, although expansion was an issue of interest, the Dakotas were an unlikely target.

Athletic Director Fred Oien acknowledged that the Big Sky Conference’s position on expansion into the Dakotas was not as positive as he had hoped for, but he remains cautiously optimistic.

“The Big Sky indicated that they were not prepared for expansion in our direction at this time,” he said. “Currently, discussions with other conferences are on hold until the conclusion of the Final Four. Then they will start up.”

The goal is to have a conference in place by Sept. 1. On that day, SDSU must notify the North Central Conference of its plans for the 2004-05 year. Additionally, on Dec. 1, the university must submit a formal letter of intent to the NCAA applying for DI reclassification.

Oien said he has no knowledge of any visits between SDSU and potential conferences slated at this time.

Oien said the DI transition team was relatively easy to install.

“The transition team is just our leadership team that was in place during the initial Division I study,” he said. “We simply asked them to continue on as our transition team, and they agreed.”

The team is made up of the Student Association president, alumni, SDSU Foundation representatives and members of the academic faculty, among others.

Oien said the team meets with consultants to share information and strategy with athletic administration staff. The team’s ultimate goal is to draft an official strategy plan that outlines obstacles to the shift from DII and suggesting ways to overcome them.

“We expect a draft of the strategy plan sometime near the end of May,” Oien said.

As far as a potential conference is concerned, Oien said the search goes on.

“The search for a conference continues on a daily basis,” he said. “We continue to work closely with North Dakota State University in an effort to secure conference affiliation suitable to us both.”