NCC teams could face major changes

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

SDSU athletics have been a part of the North Central Conference for more than 80 years.

However, if SDSU follows two other former NCC teams (NDSU and Northern Colorado) to Division I, those remaining in the conference could face some major changes, said two NCC university athletic directors.

“It would have a definite effect on the NCC,” said Roger Thomas, athletic director at UND. “The teams have been great competitors and interesting, heavily-followed rivalries have been built over the years.”

Thomas said that if the move were made, the NCC would have to step back and evaluate where to go from there.

Looking at the possibility of adding new schools to the conference is a very real possibility, Thomas said.

“Getting other schools to join is key,” he said. “Of course, with potential conference candidates, issues with finances, facilities and staffing would have to be evaluated.”

Thomas said he believes the NCC does run the risk of getting “watered down” by an influx of DIII schools or NAIA schools wanting in.

He said, “It’s important that we set up some minimum standards and be selective to ensure competitiveness.”

Kelly Higgins, Athletic Director at USD said he could not get overly concerned with the future of the NCC.

“The NCC is strong and will remain strong,” he said. “It’s the premier league in Division II and will remain that way.”

Higgins said he is not too worried about the NCC weakening if and when other teams come knocking at the league’s door.

“It is a strict process that limits the number of schools that can join,” Higgins said. “That’s a small amount in any one year. And there is specific criteria that must be met.”

To complicate matters, some reports indicate that pressure is mounting in DII to trim scholarship numbers.

While Higgins said no resolution has been proposed to indicate that, Thomas said that the threat of it happening still exists.

“That is one thing that is threatening all of us,” he said. “There is no proposal yet, but just the prospect of that could make some upset with Division II. If that happened, I’m sure it would have an effect on what UND would ultimately do.”

Both men said that SDSU’s decision to move to DI or not is solely up to that institution.

“I’m not from SDSU and I’m not an SDSU alumnus,” said Higgins. “If that’s what they want to do, then I wish them the best. We are sincerely hoping that they won’t do it, but the NCC will remain strong whatever happens.”

“It’s a matter of getting everything lined up and off on the right foot for them,” Thomas said. “But, some fear that the great tradition of NCC school competition hangs in the balance.”