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By Wayne Nelson, Grand Forks Herald, Published January 07 2009

The Summit League: Rivalry hits another roadblock

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – A stance taken by The Summit League could hurt the chances of North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota renewing their rivalry.

The league plans to visit the University of South Dakota to gather information about the school’s athletic programs but said it will not visit UND because of the school’s ongoing controversy over the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

“I’m not presenting any information to the (league’s) presidents council on the University of North Dakota until the logo issue is resolved one way or the other,” Summit League commissioner Tom Douple said Tuesday. “I don’t want it to be an issue for our members.”

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said because the Bison belong to the Summit, they would have to follow the league’s stance when it comes to playing against UND.

“If we start playing them, we would be going against the wishes of our league at this point,” Taylor said.

The situation would not affect potential NDSU-UND football games because the Summit League does not sponsor the sport. NDSU belongs to the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The USD visit could open the door for South Dakota to join the 10-team conference.

Taylor said he could not comment on any possible league expansion plans.

UND and South Dakota are in their first season of NCAA Division I competition. When the schools announced their Division I intentions, full conference affiliation was listed as a crucial component of the move.

Summit League officials will visit the South Dakota campus in Vermillion on Jan. 20-21.

Douple said there is no timetable on league expansion.

“But we’re always looking at our options,” Douple said.

UND and South Dakota have applied for Summit League membership. Both schools consider the league a good fit geographically and athletically.

UND and South Dakota both belong to the Great West Conference, a nine-member league that stretches from coast to coast.

The conference was expanded from a football-only league to an all-sports league last summer, a move that was welcomed by both UND and South Dakota.

However, both schools ultimately would like to join the Summit, which is based mainly in the Midwest.

UND athletic director Brian Faison said his school has not been contacted by Summit League officials.

“The UND Athletics Department is always looking for ways to expand and improve opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches, fans and contributors,” Faison said in a statement. “Conference membership is a crucial part of the transition process to full Division I membership. We are pleased to be members of the Great West Conference.”

If the Summit does expand, it likely won’t come until USD completes its Division I transition years. South Dakota, along with UND, won’t complete the transition until the 2012-13 school year. That’s the first season USD and UND will be eligible for Division I postseason play.

South Dakota officials were pleased with the Summit’s decision to visit the Vermillion campus.

“Full conference affiliation is critical to our athletic strategic plan and transition to Division I,” South Dakota Athletic Director Joel Nielsen said. “It also represents a vital component to the advancement and interests of many of our sponsored sports.”

League officials will prepare a report from the South Dakota visit for the commissioner to present at The Summit League’s Presidents Council meeting in March.

UND has dealt with the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo controversy for years.

In a legal settlement reached in 2007 with the NCAA, which had threatened to punish the school if it didn’t change the nickname, UND agreed to drop it if it is unable to reach an understanding with namesake tribes in North Dakota within three years.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack contributed to this report. The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.