Waldorf College joins North Star
JAMESTOWN — The North Star Athletic Association’s football membership grew by one on Tuesday.
Waldorf will compete in just football, for now, and is the seventh school in the new league. Dickinson State, currently in the Frontier Conference, joins the NSAA in every sport July 1. The additions put the conference above the minimum six teams to qualify for the NAIA playoffs, meaning next season’s conference champion will automatically qualify for the postseason.
DSU travels to Waldorf on Sept. 13
Waldorf’s joining the league had been anticipated for some time, but getting everything aligned tends to take time.
“It seems it would be easier than it is, but we have lots of checks and balances as an organization to go through to make sure everything is a good fit,” NSAA commissioner Cory Anderson said. “We’re excited to take this next step and happy to have Waldorf College on board.”
If Anderson has his way, however, it’s just the start of building a much bigger conference in the hopes of securing an elusive commodity in collegiate athletics this day and age — stability.
“It’s definitely on the front burner at this point in time. We want to keep this momentum and grow,” Anderson said. “There are certainly opportunities out there and we’re working on a daily basis with the goal of getting to the point where all of our members are automatic qualifiers in all sports.”
That’s a tall mountain to climb, of course. Anderson understands that, noting, for example that currently only the University of Jamestown and Dakota State have soccer programs.
“These things don’t just happen. If it was easy, it’d have been solved already, but we’re not going to rest until we achieve that goal,” Anderson said.
Getting universities, presidents, athletic directors and coaches to coalesce around anything is always challenging, but Anderson said the shared vision among the membership is allowing for aggressive pursuit of growth, and ultimately other institutions.
“We have a group of leaders that are really acting as one and that allows us to develop our goals and make strategic plans,” he said. “Right now, everyone is very trusting and visionary and calculated and understanding of what we need to do because nobody wants to go back to being an independent.”
Previously, Waldorf had been a member of the Mid-States Football Association, essentially a football-only league. The Warriors compete in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference in everything else.
“Since our initial interaction with conference officials, we have been impressed with the organization and its commitment to the student-athlete,” said Waldorf president Dr. Robert Alsop. “These are high quality academic institutions with which we are pleased to be associated.”
Scheduling-wise, flexibility has been built into each school’s future slate of games, leaving open the possibility of future expansion for as soon as the 2015-16 seasons.
“There are a lot of variables that go into it in terms of the demographics, geography, obviously a financial component and certainly from an athletic- and academic-standpoint,” Anderson said. “This is an opportunity to provide stability for every fan, player, coach, university official, and that’s something we just haven’t had.”
University of Jamestown athletic director Lawrie Paulson, also the chair of ADs for the NSAA, has spent as much time on the issue as anybody over the last several years and is encouraged by the latest development.
“It’s a real positive step for the North Star. It’s going to help football scheduling and hopefully lead to greater involvement by (Waldorf),” Paulson said. “I do think it’s important to grow and if this causes other schools to open their eyes, if it leads to step 2, then that’s certainly an encouraging development for all of us.”