DSU accepts invite to join North Star Athletic Association
In the words of Dickinson State president D.C. Coston, "We are here to confirm the worst kept rumor of the year."
As DSU head coaches, athletes, boosters and different members of the media stepped into the Biesiot Activities Center on Friday, everyone sitting at the press conference knew what was about to happen.
DSU officially announced it has accepted an invitation to the newly formed North Star Athletic Association that includes Jamestown College, Valley City State, Mayville State, Dakota State in Madison, S.D., and Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D., which was accepted into the NAIA on Monday.
"There's a wonderful tradition with these institutions athletically," Coston said. "We believe that it will enhance the excitement and fun for our fans."
Earlier this year, there was talk among DSU officials that it could be sought out for a new conference if Presentation was accepted into the NAIA.
That happened Monday at the NAIA National Convention in Kansas City, Mo., and shortly thereafter the new conference announced it was forming and extended an invitation to DSU to be its sixth member. DSU couldn't officially accept because the institution is currently part of the Frontier Conference.
DSU will operate as a member of the Frontier in the 2013-14 academic year before joining the NSAA in 2014-15.
"There are policies, procedures and time periods to make notification to withdraw," DSU athletic director Tim Daniel said. "We didn't sign for a certain amount of time. We just notified our withdrawal and it would make sense to do it during 2014-15, because the schedules in all the sports are set."
Dakota State, Jamestown, Mayville State and Valley City State are all former Dakota Athletic Conference rivals. Though DSU has consistently competed against all three schools since joining the Frontier, a conference championship will once again be on the line.
"That's something that we miss is those long-time rivalries," Daniel said. "We've competed against Jamestown College, Valley City State, Mayville State and Dakota State and that's something people are excited about. In all of our sports, I think that's huge thing for us."
Throughout the process of deciding whether or not to accept the invitation, one of DSU's biggest concerns was the amount of traveling and school time being lost while traveling to its Frontier Conference games. Blue Hawk athletics made a handful of trips that were more than 800 miles one way.
The longest drive for DSU in the NSAA will be 491 miles to Dakota State, a trip it made for years in nearly every sport as a member of the DAC.
"As we have reiterated, our students will be in the classroom and they won't have to travel as far," Coston said. "The competition is great in the Frontier Conference. We enjoyed that, but when our student-athletes are gone four days to participate in competition, it puts a strain on them academically. We are indeed committed they do get a good education as well as having a wonderful athletic experience."
Nonetheless, DSU is thankful for the Frontier. As DSU will finish out its final season in the Frontier, the university didn't want to back out and not fulfill its scheduling promises. DSU officials said, overall, the decision to leave the Frontier was extremely difficult.
"The Frontier Conference was gracious and allowed us in," Daniel said. "Ultimately, what we had to take a look at was best for our student-athletes. It's just tough to put a kid on a bus, leave on a Wednesday and not get home until Sunday morning for competition. That's just not conducive to a positive academic situation."
Though DSU is set to join the NSAA in 2014-15, DSU head football coach Hank Biesiot hopes the university continues to compete against teams from the Frontier.
"I think the best of both worlds for Dickinson State football is to play the other traditional teams, like the Montana teams," he said. "I would hope there would be a chance to play three or four teams per year. There are schedule questions that remain in the new conference."