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Eric Peterson, Published June 14 2010

Sweet 16? NSIC considering adding two schools to create

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference could have its expansion targets identified by the end of this week.

The NSIC board – made up of the league’s 14 college presidents – is set to meet Friday in Indianapolis where it will look at four schools that are interested in joining the conference.

NSIC commissioner Butch Raymond said he has received letters of interest from Minot State, the University of Sioux Falls, Black Hills State and South Dakota School of Mines. Raymond said he anticipates the board will vote to decide whether or not the league wants to take site visits to each of the four schools.

A simple majority of the board is needed for the NSIC to take a visit to a potential expansion school.

“It’s the first step,” Raymond said. “Either you get to the second step or it ends right here. That’s kind of the way it is.”

Last September, the NSIC announced its desire to expand from 14 to 16 teams with the 2012-13 season set as a target date.

“They were pretty emphatic last September, the last time we met, when we discussed expansion saying that, ‘Yes, they would like to expand to 16, they would like to have two divisions, they would like to make sure the schools were a good fit … and they would like to make sure by doing this there would be some cost reduction in expenses for schools,’” Raymond said.

Minnesota State Moorhead President Edna Szymanski said she needs more information before she decides how to vote. She wants to study more what expansion will mean to the league and MSUM in terms of cost.

“I’m going there to learn and to listen,” Szymanski said. “I want to understand what people’s viewpoints are on it so that I can make an intelligent decision in terms of a vote.”

Northern State athletic director Bob Olson said he has talked to the coaches at his school about expansion and the reaction has been a mixed bag – some in favor and some not in favor.

“It is not a slam dunk, like I think some people maybe think it is,” Olson said. “I think it’s far from that.”

If the NSIC expands to 16, most sports would be split into two eight-team divisions. The conference already has two seven-team divisions in football, since travel partners are not needed in that sport.

However, in sports like basketball and volleyball, with scheduled games on Fridays and Saturdays, it is more desirable to have travel partners to limit cost.

That would also make scheduling easier and more balanced. In basketball, a school would likely play teams within its division twice a season and teams in the other division once a season. That would total 22 games and leave four non-conference dates.

“Some of our schools are having difficulty fulfilling their schedule with non-conference games,” Raymond said. “In a large conference some of those things will take care of themselves.”

Sioux Falls and Minot State have both been given Division II candidacy.

“I think when you look at the profile of schools in that league, I think we fit pretty well,” said Minot State athletic director Rick Hedberg. “For us in athletics, it’s a pretty anxious time. … We just want them to come and take a look at us.”

Black Hills State and South Dakota School of Mines have both submitted their applications to the NCAA for D-II admission, but are waiting to see if they will be accepted.

Minot State, Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines are currently members of the Dakota Athletic Conference, a NAIA league. Next school year will be Minot State’s final season in the DAC.

“I think there are still too many details to be worked out to say that expansion is imminent,” MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said. “I think the continued discussion about expansion is imminent. … The long-term implications of expansion, you want to make sure what those are.”

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.