Wayne Ortman / Associated Press, Published November 05 2010
South Dakota announces it will join Missouri Valley Football Conference, remain in Summit League for other sportsVERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota is joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference effective with the 2012 season, a move that came quickly and renews a sports rivalry with South Dakota State.
The schools have gone their separate ways in athletics since SDSU moved from NCAA Division II to Division I. South Dakota is in the third year of a four-year transition to Division I.
USD President James Abbott noted that separation Thursday in accepting the Missouri Valley offer.
“In the last couple of years ... I’ve missed some of the traditional rivalries we have come to know,” he said at a news conference.
There have been some “wonderful contests,” he said, “but I’ve long held that traditional rivalries are important.”
USD and SDSU were already scheduled to begin playing each other in sports other than football beginning in fall 2011, when USD joins the Summit League, where South Dakota State is a member.
The Summit League doesn’t offer football. SDSU is in the Missouri Valley for football while South Dakota has been part of the Great West Football Conference, which is disbanding after next season.
The Big Sky Conference, which added North Dakota and Southern Utah just this week, had been courting South Dakota for all sports. Abbott said USD’s contract with the Summit League includes a $500,000 penalty if it withdraws within eight years of joining.
Patty Viverito, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, said the opportunity to add South Dakota surfaced Monday night upon hearing that USD didn’t follow North Dakota and Southern Utah into the Big Sky.
“I assumed all along that South Dakota and North Dakota were a package deal for the Big Sky,” she said. “I thought it was both or neither.”
When it became apparent they were not “tethered,” Viverito said she called USD athletic director David Sayler on Tuesday morning and said, “Is it too late?” What followed was quick and unanimous endorsement from the league’s athletic directors and college presidents to invite South Dakota.
Sayler said the Missouri Valley offers advantages in travel efficiency and growth in ticket revenue, fans and boosters.
He noted the atmosphere when USD hosted Northern Iowa, a Missouri Valley member, in a recent football game and how that would be increased if a conference championship is at stake.
“It gives me chills thinking about that kind of game,” he said.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference members are Northern Iowa, Western Illinois, Indiana State, Missouri State, South Dakota State, Illinois State, North Dakota State, Southern Illinois, and Youngstown State.
The state’s two largest schools haven’t played each other in football since 2003 when SDSU won 22-11. South Dakota leads the series 57-48-7.
“This gets the rivalries back. It’s great for the fans and it’s really good for the state of South Dakota,” said USD football coach Ed Meierkort, who has never coached against SDSU.
“Rivalries fill seats and that’s all part of it.”