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By Dave Selvig / Forum Communications Co., Published October 02 2010

Jamestown applies to GPAC conference

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Jamestown College is being proactive in trying to find a new home.

With the Dakota Athletic Conference about to drop to four schools after the 2010-11 season, Jamestown College applied for membership into the Great Plains Athletic Conference, or GPAC, late last week.

The final four DAC schools – Jamestown College, Dickinson State, Valley City State and Mayville State – did apply to the GPAC as a group last spring, but were denied. The GPAC prefers faith-based institutions, which Jamestown College is, but the other three North Dakota schools are not.

All of this is necessary because Minot State is in its final year of its transition to NCAA Division II. Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines are making the same move, while Dakota State elected to leave the DAC and become an NAIA independent.

Further hastening Jamestown College’s decision is that Dickinson State has made it clear they plan to be in a conference in the NAIA next year, which is all but certain to mean they’ll be going to the Montana-based Frontier Conference.

The GPAC is scheduled to hold their fall meetings this month, and JC’s application will be on the agenda.

“Of the options we have in front of us, this is the best one,” Jamestown College athletic director Lawrie Paulson said. “It’s become clear there isn’t any chance of resurrecting the DAC as we know it.

“From a geographic standpoint, from an athletic-offering standpoint and general philosophy, the GPAC makes the most sense for us.”

The problem, however, and it may be a fatal one, is distance.

The closest GPAC school to Jamestown is Dakota Wesleyan, located four hours away in Mitchell, S.D. The 12 GPAC schools – although football power Sioux Falls is currently transitioning to NCAA Division II – are located in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. As currently constructed the average drive time for GPAC schools is less than two hours. Also, Jamestown College would not have a geographically logical travel partner, adding another complication.

“They like everything about us except for the fact that we’re located in the middle of North Dakota,” Paulson said.

The GPAC has had some volatility themselves in conference membership of late. Besides Sioux Falls leaving, Dana College had to shut its doors in July due to severe economic problems, leaving the league with just 11 schools when Sioux Falls leaves.

The four remaining DAC schools have had discussions about a possible merger with the Frontier Conference, but the massive distance between the three eastern North Dakota schools and the nine Frontier members – six in Montana, and one each in Utah, Oregon and Idaho – is seen as a major stumbling block toward any potential merger. The geographic distance is not quite as extreme for Dickinson State.

Paulson said even if the GPAC is interested in possibly adding Jamestown College, any affirmative decision is a long ways off. They plan to aggressively lobby GPAC presidents, but realize it is a long shot.

“We think we have a strong case, and we bring a lot of positives, but our chances are slim,” he said. “We felt like it was in our best interests to at least try.”

Selvig writes for The Jamestown Sun