Oien addresses DI student concerns

Adam Zobel

Adam Zobel

Athletic Director Fred Oien fielded questions from students last Wednesday on the school’s potential move into Division I.

The Students’ Association sponsored the noon forum in the University Student Union to gauge student opinion get input on the proposed foray away from the North Central Conference.

Oien noted the future stability of the North Central Conference is in question as a result of Morningside College’s recent departure from the NCC and the intentions of North Dakota State University and the University of Northern Colorado to leave the NCC and move up to DI.

He then informed the students that SDSU had already conducted one study and was awaiting the results from a second study.

Oien emphasized that the entire campus community, including students, would need to be supportive of a move to DI. Another major point is cost of playing in a new conference.

He said the athletic department is looking at the impact of a division change over a time frame of 15-20 years.

Finally, he said that SDSU is one of only 22 (out of 290) DII schools with an enrollment of over 7500. In response to a question on the traditional rivalries of SDSU, Oien noted that past SDSU teams played teams such as Montana, Creighton and Northern Iowa, current DI teams and that the quality of athletic opponents has often decreased, a trend that will be accelerated with schools such as NDSU and UNC leaving for DI.

He also commented that SDSU is looking at the competition level for all 20 of its sports, not just football and basketball. Oien said Frost Arena is better than the facilities of 125 DI schools and that attendance at basketball games ranks as DII’s highest and would rank better than 108 DI schools.

The only major deficiency of SDSU’s athletic facilities would be the condition of the football locker rooms; this problem and other minor issues would be addressed by the construction of the proposed wellness center.

The fear of scholarship dollars being diverted to athletics was addressed when Oien stated that about 95 percent of scholarship dollars are designated at the request of donors. Regarding athletic recruiting, he remarked that SDSU recruits from a seven-state area and that would not change; he also predicted that a switch to DI would be more advantageous when recruiting both athletes and typical students as a result of increased prestige.

When asked about the impact of a division change on student fees, Oien speculated that there would not be much pressure for a fee increase specifically for athletics during the five-year transition period.

He said many DI schools use student fees and the athletic department would continue allowing free admission for SDSU students.

Oien finished by saying that a university’s athletic teams are often defined by “who you play.” He said remaining in DII would probably result in less competition and eventually less school pride.