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USF to be a member of NCAA Division II beginning this school year

Keith Cutler1 / 2
David Maxwell2 / 2

David Maxwell and Keith Cutler both chose the University of Sioux Falls for collegiate athletics, knowing the school would likely be making a transition to NCAA Division II.

On Thursday, USF received official notice it is has been accepted for membership to NCAA Division II beginning this school year.

"This is great for our university," said Cutler, a Platte native who plays baseball and basketball for the Cougars. "I think it's a very exciting move, and I think it's a big reason a lot of the athletes did come here the last couple of years with talks of moving up to Division II."

USF held NCAA Division II provisional status last year and will compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) with the exception of men's soccer.

"We had fully expected to get in, but you never know," said Maxwell, a Parkston native who will be a senior on the men's basketball team this year.

The school will officially become a member of NCAA Division II on Sept. 1, but games that will be played in August will be considered NCAA contests. USF will be eligible to compete in Division II championship events this year, as well as for postseason awards.

Before starting the transition phase to move to the NCAA, USF was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and a member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference, the same classification and league Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell is in.

The Cougars competed in the NAIA from 2000 to 2011. But earlier this month the NSIC expanded to 16 institutions, accepting applications from USF and Minot State University.

The NSIC now consists of 16 teams in a five-state area. Besides USF, Augustana College in Sioux Falls and Northern State University in Aberdeen are also South Dakota institutions competing in the NSIC and NCAA Division II.

Maxwell said he's looking forward to competing in the NSIC his last year of collegiate athletics. Last year, the USF men's basketball team went 20-9 and played in the transitional independent tournament to end the year instead of playing for a postseason conference tournament title.

"We had a good year ... it was kind of a different, weird feeling at the end of the year just knowing when you'd be done," Maxwell said. "It's going to be a great opportunity this year. The NSIC is tough competition, so we're going to have to play well."

The NSIC will form two eight-team divisions for the sports of football and basketball, with USF and Augustana in the South Division, while Northern State will be in the North Division.