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Missouri Valley Conference official mum on possible UND membership

GRAND FORKS, N.D.—New University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy has made it clear that he wants his school to look at new options for a conference home for its athletics programs.

But the commissioner of one league that UND could be exploring will remain mum.

Patti Viverito, the head of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, said Tuesday: "I'm not at liberty to have discussions about membership with the press. We're certainly reading the articles coming out of North Dakota with interest."

Viverito declined to speak about the advantages and disadvantages of the current 10-team member, football-only league.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference features all three Dakota rivals—North Dakota State, South Dakota State and South Dakota.

UND, meanwhile, is in the Big Sky Conference for all sports except hockey and swimming.

After moving to the Division I level, UND initially looked at joining the MVFC for football and the Summit League for the rest of its sports.

The Summit was receptive to UND's membership and scheduled a visit to Grand Forks, but UND could not secure a home for football in the MVFC (the Summit does not sponsor football).

Instead, UND ended up in the Big Sky Conference.

In light of a $1.4 million budget deficit in the UND athletic department, Kennedy has instructed a committee to examine all aspects of athletics, including conference affiliation.

He told Forum News Service that its current conference setup has led to high costs in travel.

The only options appear to be going to the Summit for all sports other than hockey, swimming and football, and partnering with either the MVFC or Big Sky for football.

In June, presidents and athletic directors in the MVFC expressed at their annual meeting that they were, in general, satisfied with current membership structure.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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