This weekend, the Dakota State University Trojans and Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers will meet on the Gridiron and the Volleyball court. If you’re an old alum of DSU or DWU (of which I am neither), you’d think this is some sort of a time-warp and a resurrection of the old SDIC days.
And if the president of Dakota Wesleyan gets his way, those SDIC days and the DSU-DWU rivalry might live again… if Dakota State could join the faith-based Great Plains Athletic Conference.
Having covered DSU for most of the time I’ve worked in Madison, I think this would be a good fit. When the SDIC dissolved in 2000, it forced DSU, Black Hills State, Huron University and SD Mines into a “Shotgun Marriage” with the North Dakota Athletic Conference–forming the Dakota Athletic Conference. And while it was workable in the beginning, things started to fall apart quickly.
First, the University of Mary moved up to the NCAA and the NSIC. Shortly thereafter, Huron University closed… which hurt DSU since that was a good rivalry and basically the shortest conference drive. Add to the fact that Minot State, Black Hills State and SD Mines all moved to the NCAA, it leaves a 5-team conference in which the closest opponent is 4 hours away. And in the land of rising gas prices and a tenuous economy, it was starting to get economically unfeasible. In addition, the fact the conference was in danger of losing its “auto-qualifier” status in the NAIA… and there was some talk of Dickinson State (a 10+ hour trip, BTW–ugh!) making the move to the Frontier Conference.
And to be honest, there was no passion, no sense of “rivalry” between DSU and the North Dakota Schools. There was no competition for recruits, not a lot of North Dakota students went to DSU and vice versa…. it didn’t have the atmosphere like SDSU-USD or SDSU-Augie or Augie-USD. It almost felt… antiseptic; unlike when you saw DWU come to the Fieldhouse or Mt. Marty.
Personally, I’d like to see DSU get into the GPAC. Like the president of DWU says in the article, Dakota State brings a lot to the conference….
1) A VERY strong academic profile–One of only 13 colleges and universities in the United States to be named a “Center of Information Assurance by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security”.
2) Close proximity to other conference rivals–One hour to Mitchell (DWU), about 90 minutes to Yankton (Mount Marty), and 2-4 hours to most of the other schools in the GPAC.
3) Commitment to the NAIA–DSU’s AD has made it clear that they are not pursing NCAA Membership. They want to stay in the NAIA, which leads to…
4) Stability–Unlike USF, DSU wants to stay in the NAIA. And unlike Dana, DSU is a state-supported school which means unless the State of South Dakota shuts down the school (highly unlikely since the school’s land and property would automatically revert to the descendants of the family that originally donated the land), they will continue to stay open.
Of course, some would say that because DSU is a secular, non-religious school, they shouldn’t get a shot (maybe if they built a church to Bill Gates?). But I think what they’d bring to the conference in terms of strong academic focus, stability and recognition (Best Midwest College five years in a row by U.S. News and World Report) would make them an ideal member to the GPAC.