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School of Mines, BHSU heading to NCAA DII

Two western South Dakota universities are switching from the NAIA to NCAA Division II.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City and Black Hills State University in Spearfish announced Monday that the NCAA has accepted both institutions for membership.

Both schools will remain in the NAIA for the upcoming season and then have a two-year probationary period before gaining official NCAA status.

"This is fantastic news for the Hardrockers," School of Mines President Dr. Robert A. Wharton said in a press release. "Our student-athletes are incredible in the classroom and on the field, and this move allows us to pursue greater opportunities for growth and development of talent. This is a great benefit for the community and our alumni as well. It raises the stature of our athletic programs, and we anticipate much greater community interest and involvement."

Both schools are members of the Dakota Athletic Conference. The switch to NCAA means they'll also switch to a different conference. The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference are among possibilities. Augustana and Northern State both are members of the NSIC.

"A lot of time and discussion went into this decision," Black Hills State University Athletic Director Jhett Albers said in a press release. "After talking with our student-athletes, alumni, donors, and the administration, it became clear that pursuing (NCAA) Division II was the right choice for the future of Yellow Jacket Athletics."