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BHSU, School of Mines looking to join NCAA

VERMILLION -- Presidents for Black Hills State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology want their campuses to join the NCAA. The two universities currently are members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

NAIA membership has fallen by nearly half in recent decades and is now below 300.

If accepted by the NCAA, Black Hills State and School of Mines would compete at the Division II level, similar to Northern State University. The University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University moved up from Division II to Division I in the past decade.

Dakota State University would be the only remaining member of NAIA among South Dakota's six public universities.

Black Hills State and School of Mines worked together on their plan to move to NCAA Division II, according to their presidents and athletic directors.

The four -- BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp and her athletic director, Jhett Albers; and School of Mines President Robert Wharton and his athletic director, Dick Kaiser -- sat side by side at the witness table Wednesday during their presentation to the state Board of Regents at a meeting in Vermillion.

Albers said the challenge will be to develop scholarship funding and athletic program support. He said BHSU will be able to better recruit student athletes with a Division II NCAA endorsement because many of the competing schools are Division II.

Kaiser said there are less than 300 NAIA schools, down from 550 in recent decades, and that reduction has forced longer travel for student athletes and more time away from campus. He added that NAIA is about 90 percent private institutions.

Schallenkamp said the BHSU booster club has pushed for the change at her campus and the club's leaders understand the additional responsibility they'll be asked to shoulder in support.

There was only praise and no criticism from the regent who spoke up. "The best thing you've done is do it together," regent Randy Schaeffer of Madison told the four.

Annual dues, insurance and national-tournament costs would decrease with a switch to NCAA from NAIA, according to information presented to the regents.

The timetable calls for an NCAA decision this year. If the universities are accepted, they would begin a two-year candidacy period, followed by a one-year provisional period as they await final acceptance. Under that scenario, they would become full NCAA Division II members for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Black Hills State and School of Mines currently play in the Dakota Athletic Conference, which is affiliated with the NAIA. The conference began in 1999 with 10 members from South Dakota and North Dakota, but has lost two to NCAA Division II, and a third school closed altogether.

Black Hills State and School of Mines officials have contacted the Northern Sun and Rocky Mountain conferences about future membership.