Frontier Conference sends letters to 7 schools
The Frontier Conference has its eye on seven new schools.
How those schools feel about the Frontier remains to be seen.
Dakota Athletic Conference commissioner Lavern Jessen said Thursday the Frontier has sent letters to the conference's four schools that plan to remain in the NAIA after the 2010-11 season, asking that they apply for membership in the Frontier.
"In the letter, they are requesting that these schools make applications if they are sincere about getting involved in the Frontier," Jessen said. "They need to know who's serious and who is not."
The Frontier sent letters to DAC schools Dickinson State, Jamestown College, Mayville State and Valley City State, as well as three West Coast schools: Southern Oregon in Ashland, Ore., Azusa (Calif.) Pacific University and Menlo College in Atherton, Calif.
All seven have expressed at least some interest in joining the conference.
In the letter, Jessen said the Frontier has requested that any institution interested in joining the conference apply by Oct. 29, adding Frontier officials plan to meet in December to review the applications.
The hope is to set the wheels in motion so schools that want move to the Frontier can do so and begin formulating schedules for the 2011-12 school year.
Dickinson State interim athletic director Tim Daniel said the school has been interested in the Frontier since the DAC's future began looking hazy and added it is likely the school will soon apply for membership in the conference.
"We've talked about it," Daniel said. "We know what we want to do."
The same can't be said for the three other DAC schools who plan to remain in the NAIA after this season.
Jamestown College athletic director Lawrie Paulson said his institution, as well as Mayville State and Valley City State, are carefully weighing their options.
"To me, the devil is in the details, meaning we have to see what the scheduling would look like, how flexible they are, to know whether or not it's really an option for us," Pauslon said.
The possible addition of seven new schools ranging from eastern North Dakota to Los Angeles would force the Frontier to create some interesting scheduling scenarios, including divisions.
"We really don't know how committed we can be," Paulson said. "It's going to depend upon what the schedules would look like."
Paulson added that Jamestown is also looking into what its options are as an NAIA independent school.
"We certainly have the Frontier discussions on the front burner, but I don't think we're anywhere close to be willing to commit to anything," Paulson said.
No matter what happens, scheduling will take on an entirely different look for the four remaining DAC teams after this season.
If the conference chooses to remain intact, it will be down to four teams on July 1, 2011. The conference loses Black Hills State, Minot State and South Dakota Mines to NCAA Division II. Dakota State plans to switch to NAIA independent status.
The Frontier has been considered a viable option for the four schools, especially Dickinson State, because of its proximity and strength.
The Frontier currently has nine schools in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Utah, and offers conference affiliation in 13 sports. Three of those schools don't have football and others don't compete in various sports. The conference does not offer affiliation for baseball and softball, two staple sports of the four remaining DAC schools.
In most any scenario in which it would add new schools, sources say the new Frontier would split into divisions. How scheduling would work from there is something Jessen and Frontier commissioner Kent Paulson are discussing.
Efforts to reach Kent Paulson on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Lawrie Paulson said there is bound to be some give and take when it comes to scheduling talks.
"(Jessen) has put forth some proposals in a couple of sports that we might be able to live with," Paulson said. "But, I don't know if the Frontier is willing to live with it."
At the very least, the Blue Hawks appear to be heading west.
Daniel said, in the mind of Dickinson State officials, the Frontier is the only option viable option to continue operating as a member of the NAIA.
"We have no other options," Daniel said. "For us, right now, that's our only option."
How they break down
The Frontier Conference has sent letters to seven schools, four in the Dakota Athletic Conference and three on the West Coast, asking for them to apply for membership. Here is a breakdown of which teams participate in which sports.
Football (6): Carroll College, Eastern Oregon (football only), Montana State-Northern, Montana Tech, Montana Western, Rocky Mountain College.
Men's and women's basketball, volleyball and golf (8): Carroll College, Lewis-Clark State College, Montana State-Northern, Montana Tech, Montana Western, Rocky Mountain College, University of Great Falls, Westminster College.
Cross country (7): Carroll College, Lewis-Clark State College, Montana Tech, Montana Western, Rocky Mountain College, University of Great Falls, Westminster College.
Track and field (6): Carroll College, Lewis-Clark State College, Montana Western, Rocky Mountain College, University of Great Falls, Westminster College.
Women's soccer (4): Carroll College, Rocky Mountain College, University of Great Falls, Westminster College.
Men's soccer (3): Rocky Mountain College, University of Great Falls, Westminster College.
Men's wrestling (2): Montana State-Northern, University of Great Falls.
Baseball (1): Lewis-Clark State College.
Softball (1): University of Great Falls.
Dakota Athletic Conference
Football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball (4): Dickinson State, Jamestown College, Mayville State, Valley City State.
Cross country, golf and track and field (3): Dickinson State, Jamestown College, Valley City State.
Men's wrestling (2): Dickinson State, Jamestown College.
Men's and women's soccer, women's wrestling (1): Jamestown College.
Football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, cross country, softball and women's soccer (3): Azusa Pacific, Menlo College, Southern Oregon.
Baseball (2): Azusa Pacific, Menlo College.
Men's soccer (2): Azusa Pacific, Menlo College.
Track and field (2): Azusa Pacific, Southern Oregon
Men's wrestling (2): Menlo College, Southern Oregon
Men's golf (1): Menlo College
Tennis, women's swimming and diving: (1): Azusa Pacific.