Aug 11th, 2010 @ 9:33 am | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley, VCSU President
There has been much activity in the Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC) during the past few weeks that could have major implications for the future direction of VCSU Athletics. Last week, Dakota State University (SD) announced its plans to leave the DAC and move to NAIA Independent status effective Fall 2011. This announcement came on the heels of a decision made by the DAC to begin a five-team schedule in Fall 2011. A five-team schedule would have been inevitable by Fall 2012 following the acceptance of Black Hills State University and the SD School of Mines & Technology into the NCAA; the DAC simply decided to proceed with a five-team schedule a year early. Now, with Dakota State's decision, only four of the original ten DAC members will remain effective July 1, 2011: Dickinson State, Jamestown College, Mayville State, and Valley City State (the 2010-11 season is the last for Minot State who is also moving to NCAA Division II).

Nothing will change for 2010-11 as the schedules are set. However, with only four schools remaining in the DAC effective Fall 2011, several major challenges arise including scheduling concerns and the fact that the NAIA requires a conference to have a minimum of six members to receive an automatic post-season bid. It is imperative that our student-athletes have the opportunity both for a full, competitive schedule and for post-season eligibility.

The major frustration among all the DAC developments over the past five years is that so many things have occurred for which VCSU has had no control, yet the ramifications have created negative results for our University. Since 2005, four members have moved, or are in process of moving, to the NCAA (the aforementioned BHSU, SD Mines, and Minot State, as well as the University of Mary), one school has closed (Huron/Si Tanka), and one school is remaining NAIA but changing to Independent status (Dakota State). These six actions have resulted in difficult consequences for the remaining four schools. VCSU, and the other three DAC schools, have long-since maintained their affirmation to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the principles for which it stands. We feel strongly the NAIA is the appropriate affiliation for our institutions. The NAIA's Champions of Character program is designed to instill character values in student-athletes and focuses on character-driven athletics. The mission of the NAIA is to promote the education and development of well-rounded students and productive citizens through intercollegiate athletics. All four schools have been NAIA members since at least 1959, further demonstrating the loyalty and commitment we have to the Association.

That said, VCSU is now at a crossroads where any and all options must be on the table. Our first options will be finding solutions that maintain our NAIA status. I have formed a committee at VCSU to explore the various possibilities and weigh the pro's and con's of each. The four remaining institutions are working closely together (we held a conference call the day Dakota State's decision was announced) and I am inspired by the commitment all four schools have to work collectively in finding an option that is best for our student-athletes. These four schools have been historic rivals for nearly a century, and the competition that has occurred during this time is part of the very fabric of North Dakota's history.

Athletics has long played an important role at VCSU, and it will unequivocally continue doing so. Over 30 percent of VCSU's residential students participate in intercollegiate athletics. While the options right now for a perfect solution to this dilemma may not appear obvious, I am confident we will find a solution in the best interest of our students and the University. I also know that our wonderfully dedicated athletic staff is equally prepared for this effort. We will continue exploring all options and keep you posted with the progress. As always, thanks for your support of VCSU and Viking Athletics!