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Eric Peterson, Published October 06 2010

Peterson: Area ADs pondering next move

The potential scenarios are many, but good luck in finding an easy solution.

With the Dakota Athletic Conference nearing the end, area schools like Jamestown College, Valley City State and Mayville State are plotting their next moves.

Within the last week, the Frontier Conference, a Montana-based league, has invited DAC schools to apply. Jamestown College has applied to the Great Plains Athletic Conference, which is made up of faith-based schools in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

“It’s hard to predict what the future is going to hold when things change so rapidly around us. Things that you don’t have control over change,” Jamestown College athletic director Lawrie Paulson said. “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful.”

The eight-team DAC will shrink to four teams next season with Minot State, Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines heading to NCAA Division II, while Dakota State will be an NAIA independent. That leaves Jamestown College, Valley City State, Mayville State and Dickinson State. All teams will technically be independent next year, although they will operate under the DAC name with a scheduling agreement.

“It’s basically dissolved before our eyes,” said Mayville athletic director Mike Moore. “It is sad. There is a lot of history and tradition. It’s a piece of history that has kind of fallen apart here.”

While all signs point to Dickinson State heading to the Frontier Conference, the other three remaining DAC schools decisions aren’t as clear cut.

Paulson said Jamestown College is looking at the Frontier, the GPAC and NAIA independent status, adding a move to the NCAA is another scenario that is on the back burner.

Moore said Mayville State is looking at the Frontier and independent status as its most viable options at this point. Those two options are also the most viable for Valley City State at this point.

“We’re going to survive. We have to. We’re going to make it work however we need to make it work,” said Valley City State athletic director Jack Denholm, who is in his first year on the job. “We haven’t ruled anything out yet.”

Geography is the biggest issue with most of the DAC schools with most of their neighbors headed to the NCAA.

“The two things that we have to be cognizant of are time away from school and cost,” Moore said. “There might not be some real good solutions; just some better than others.”

The strength of athletic programs isn’t the only thing at stake. The health of the athletic programs is also important to each of the school’s overall health.

According to the Equity in Athletics Data website, athletes accounted for around 30 percent of the school’s undergraduate enrollment in 2008-09 at least. Paulson said at his school athletes account for between 40 and 50 percent of the school’s enrollment.

“We rely on it,” Paulson said. “We are tuition driven institution so if we fail it’s a real hardship for the school. It’s more than just winning games for us. It’s how we survive.”

Moore said it’s common for athletes to help draw additional students to campus.

“Every student-athlete that comes maybe brings two or three people with them,” Moore said. “And the potential for retention with athletes is better. It’s huge.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com