DSU ready to present Frontier application
Months of discussion and speculation about the future of Dickinson State University's athletic programs has come down to two days of meetings early next week.
Officials from DSU and three other NAIA schools who applied to join the Montana-based Frontier Conference last fall will make what will likely be their final pitches to the league's officials Monday and Tuesday on the campus of Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.
DSU, Jamestown College, Southern Oregon University and Menlo College (Calif.) will each present their applications to Frontier officials in separate meetings.
Frontier Commissioner Kent Paulson said he believes league officials will make a final decision about expansion in Tuesday's final meetings.
"I don't know what humanly possibly information we can provide each other," Paulson said. "Again, things always change on the landscape and you have to be flexible and look at the big picture and see what's out there. But personally, I have hopes that this is the last piece of the application process."
At their winter meetings in December, athletic directors and presidents from the nine schools in the Frontier chose to wait on approving DSU as a full member and Jamestown, Menlo and Southern Oregon as associate members in football. Paulson said Jamestown has since amended its application to full membership.
At those meetings, Frontier officials decided they wanted to meet face-to-face with officials from the four schools that applied to join the conference in October.
President Dr. Richard McCallum, interim athletic director Tim Daniel and head football coach Hank Biesiot will represent DSU.
Daniel said his school's representatives will present their applications and highlight items Frontier officials have previously asked them about.
There will also be a question-and-answer session, which Daniel said he views as important.
"We're really looking forward to that portion of it, where those people are going to be able to ask questions of us," Daniel said.
The Frontier's decision to expand hinges on a league bylaw that states its board of directors must vote in unanimous agreement in order to extend a membership invitation to an institution.
In November, several officials from the conference told The Dickinson Press they had concerns about expansion and were apprehensive about the travel costs associated with adding schools in North Dakota, California and Oregon.
Nevertheless, Daniel said DSU is coming into the meetings with high hopes and "an open mind."
"We're just going to go out there and put our best foot forward and hopefully we'll be able to get some information that's
positive for us," Daniel said. "But we personally don't have any inkling one way or another how it's going to go."
DSU and Jamestown have been members of the Dakota Athletic Conference since 2000. The DAC is losing four schools after this season and will become a four-team league in the 2011-12 school year, when it will no longer be recognized by the NAIA as a conference. That means its schools will be considered NAIA independents and will not be automatically eligible for national postseason competition.
Daniel said DSU's athletic future hinges on next week's meetings.
DSU officials have maintained their hopes of staying an NAIA institution rather than applying for NCAA Division II. The DAC is losing Black Hills State, Minot State and South Dakota Mines to Division II following this season.
Dakota State in Madison, S.D., is leaving the league to become an NAIA independent.
Dickinson State, Jamestown, Mayville State and Valley City State will be the DAC's remaining four members beginning in July.
Daniel believes being able to present the positive reasons why DSU should gain acceptance into the Frontier could help its chances.
DSU has hundreds of student-athletes from Montana and is, geographically, the closest school of the four who applied to join the Frontier.
"There's no doubt that it's advantageous for us to be there first-hand and be able to re-present our presentation first-hand, other than just reading a formal application on a piece of paper," Daniel said. "There's no doubt that's a better situation, much more conducive to conversation both ways."