Dickinson State officials upset about lack of Frontier Conference track and field meet
Dickinson State head track and field coach Pete Stanton is upset with a decision by Frontier Conference athletic directors not to hold men's and women's conference championship meets in the sport next season.
At the annual conference meetings held in Whitefish, Mont., earlier this month, the six Frontier athletic directors whose institutions have track and field programs voted 4-2 against holding a conference meet at the end of the 2013 regular season.
That decision came despite an earlier unanimous decision by Frontier track and field coaches that recommended the league hold a conference meet in May 2013, Stanton said.
"I'm extremely disappointed with the decision of the athletic directors not to have the track meet," Stanton said. "I personally believe it's a slap in the face to the coaches, to the athletes and to the sport of track and field."
DSU will begin competing as a member of the Frontier in the 2012-13 school year. The university officially joins the league July 1.
The addition of the Blue Hawks gives the Frontier six schools with men's and women's track and field programs: DSU, Carroll College, Lewis-Clark State College, Rocky Mountain College, University of Great Falls (Mont.) and Westminster College.
The NAIA requires a conference have six institutions in a sport in order to hold a conference championship event, such as a tournament or a meet. That makes men's and women's track and field the only sports in which the Frontier could award NAIA-recognized league championships but will not.
"If we're going to sponsor a sport as a conference sport, then we have a conference championship like the rest of the sports," Stanton said. "The coaches voted unanimously to do that. That makes it even more disappointing. It could have been worked out."
Frontier Conference Commissioner Kent Paulson said June 12 that the athletic directors' decision not to award conference championships or have a conference track and field meet was disappointing.
He said it boiled down to budgeting and travel worries.
DSU is also the only Frontier school with the type of facilities the NAIA requires in order to host a conference meet. No other school has a designated hammer throw area or a steeplechase water pit.
"Would I like to see a conference track meet, as commissioner of the league? Absolutely," said Paulson, who was a track and field athlete at Montana Western in the 1970s. "I'd say the same about any sport. We want our student-athlete experience to be both at the conference level and at the national level."
"It'll come," he added.
DSU athletic director Tim Daniel, who voted in favor of holding a conference meet, is the Frontier's sport chairman for track and field.
He said part of DSU's basic athletic philosophy is allowing its student-athletes the opportunity to compete for a conference championship.
It is one of the primary reasons why the university chose to apply for membership in the Frontier last year.
"Our number one priority in all our sports, for every sport we have, is we want to compete for a conference championship," Daniel said. "Not having a conference track meet doesn't allow us to compete for that. That's disappointing that we're not able to allow our athletes in track and field the opportunity to participate in the opportunity for a Frontier Conference track and field meet."
DSU would have been the outright favorite to win the Frontier men's track and field title this upcoming season.
In Stanton's tenure, the Blue Hawk men have won three national championships (2004, 2005 and 2006), finished in the top two at the national meet from 2003 to 2010 and won the last nine Dakota Athletic Conference championships. The women's team ranked among the DAC's top teams and annually sends several athletes to the NAIA national meet.
With several of its top athletes set to return, the DSU men are expected to be in the hunt for a national championship again next year.
Paulson said the Frontier will discuss holding a conference track and field meets at future league meetings.
"Maybe at this time next year, we'll be able to say yes to it," Paulson said, adding, "Who knows?"