Minot State University President David Fuller got the phone call he and the rest of the university have been waiting for.
Officials from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference informed Fuller today (Jan. 20) of the conference's intent to expand from 14 schools to 16 institutions and that Minot State would be one of those two expansion schools. University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) joins Minot State as an expansion team. The vote was not unanimous, but met the required 10 schools minimum for expansion.
"We are very pleased with the news and the vote of support we received from the Northern Sun Conference," Fuller said. "The NSIC is a premier Division II conference, and our membership adds one more achievement to show that Minot State University is realizing our Vision 2013 goal to become one of the premier regional universities in the "great" Great Plains."
Minot State is currently in Year 2 Candidacy for admission into NCAA Division II and expects to move into Year 3 in July. The Beavers men's and women's teams would begin play in the NSIC in the fall of 2012.
"We are extremely excited about the news and very appreciative of the support that was shown from the Northern Sun Presidents and Athletic Directors," said MSU Athletic Director Rick Hedberg. "The NSIC is one of the premier NCAA DII conferences in the nation and this is a big day for our university. This will be one of those dates on the timeline of MSU athletics that will be noted for many years to come. This is something the entire community and campus can celebrate. It wasn't just our athletic department they looked at but our entire campus and community."
The NSIC presidents met to discuss two different proposals. One involved the conference expanding from its current 14 teams to 16. After that motion passed, the presidents decided on MSU and USF. The two universities were the only applications accepted by the conference.
"The NSIC is pleased to welcome these two institutions into our league. We feel both of these programs are a good fit with strong academic traditions. The competitiveness of these athletic teams will enhance all 17 sports that we currently offer," commented Winona State University President Judith Ramaley.
The Northern Sun sponsors 17 sports at the NCAA Division II level with team located in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The league has expanded twice since 2006 as the University of Mary (N.D.) and Upper Iowa joined the conference in 2006. Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato, St. Cloud State (Minn.) and Augustana College (S.D.) joined the conference in 2008 after the North Central Conference dissolved a year earlier.
"I am excited to add both schools to the NSIC. The balance both schools show between academics and athletics fits the basic foundation of our conference", said NSIC Commissioner Butch Raymond.
MSU will continue as an independent next season before joining the NSIC for the 2012-13 season.
"We are currently in Year 2 of our three-year NCAA transition. We will be an independent next year so scheduling for 2011-12 has been a bit of a challenge, but the future looks bright," Hedberg said of next season's schedule.
The conference affiliation was a major hurdle cleared by the university, according to Fuller.
"Gaining membership in a Division II conference, especially one of the NSIC's stature, has been one of our challenges and concerns since applying for Division II membership," Fuller said.
"This is great news for us in many ways, and I look forward to Minot State's successful membership in the NCAA and in the NSIC."
Minot State has been a member of the NAIA and the Dakota Athletic Conference since 2000 when members from the North Dakota College Athletic Conference and the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference merged.