Firm recommends USD go to Division 1

Firm recommends USD go to Division 1
The University of South Dakota should reclassify itself as an NCAA Division I-AA school for football and Division I for all other sports, a consultant told Monday's open forum at the Al Neuharth Media Center.

Andy Fellingham, managing director of the Inter-Collegiate Athletic Consulting (ICAC) Group of Garden City, N.Y., presented his firm's preliminary findings and recommendations at Monday's forums in Rapid City and Vermillion. Another was held Tuesday in Sioux Falls.

USD is considering the move to Division I because of numerous changes among its current Division II status, including the loss of numerous North Central Conference members in recent years.


"The number one priority: How does it affect the university's academic goals and mission? If it hurts that (mission), you have to say no (to Division I)," Fellingham told the audience of students, staff and community members at Vermillion.

Fellingham made the following recommendations:

  • reclassify to Division I;
  • consider aligning with the University of North Dakota, which has announced its move to Division I beginning in 2007-08, in order to enhance conference affiliation positions;
  • apply to the Mid-Continent Conference (which does not have football) and the Great West Football Conference as first choices;
  • develop an athletics financial plan, based upon a clear definition of what constitutes athletic success;
  • further develop an athletic facility master plan which will meet academic, programmatic and recreation needs.

    Dakota, which has announced its move to Division I beginning in 2007-08, in order to enhance conference affliliation positions;

  • apply to the Mid-Continent Conference (which does not have football) and the Great West Football Conference as first choices;
  • develop an athletics financial plan, based upon a clear definition of what constitutes athletic success;
  • further develop an athletic facility master plan which will meet academic, programmatic and recreation needs.

    The South Dakota Board of Regents policy does not permit the increasing of student fees to cover the cost of a move to Division I, Fellingham said.

    �You don�t just go up to (the development office) and say, I need another $2 million,� he said.

    The ICAC findings have been forwarded to the USD Athletic Review Task Force, which plans to finalize its report Monday for USD President Jim Abbott�s action. In his annual �State of the University� address last month, Abbott said he plans to make a decision on USD�s athletic classification by December.

    �No matter what the University picks, change is inevitable,� Fellingham said, noting the North Central Conference has apparently come to an end if the University of Nebraska-Omaha defects to another conference. USD faces hard questions, Fellingham said.

    ICAC�s preliminary findings presented by Fellingham and ICAC do not represent a recommendation nor a decision by the Athletic Review Task Force or The University of South Dakota regarding athletics reclassification or conference affiliation.

    An outside consultant was hired for the process because of its objectivity, Fellingham said. He added that his firm brought experience and a different perspective. In five previous studies for other schools, ICAC recommended three stay at their current level, one move to a higher division and the other move to a lower division.

    Fellingham looked at USD�s strategic goals, including academic excellence, research, enrollment, institutional position, funding and revenues.

    Under the Carnegie classification structure, USD is regarded as a doctorate-granting university with about 4,100 undergraduate students, Fellingham said. Under its long-range plan, USD�s goal is to raise its undergraduate enrollment to the 5,200-5,500 range while increasing its academic profile each year, he said.

    �There aren�t enough bodies to fill the six regents� schools (in the public college system). You need to bring students from outside the state,� he said. �Does going D-1 help enrollment by itself? No. But as part of an integrated marketing plan, it could.�

    With that in mind, Fellingham said USD needs to look at a national marketing and recruiting plan.

    In his presentation, Fellingham said the ICAC does not recommend USD remaining in Division II, particularly staying with the NCC or merging with the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Turning his attention to Division I, Fellingham said the finding did not recommend that USD enter the Missouri Valley or Big Sky conferences.

    USD should not run into roadblocks because it doesn�t have baseball, soccer or tennis, Fellingham said.

    Even with 27 more football scholarships for Division I-AA teams compared to Division II, USD should not have problems with federal Title IX requirements for gender equity, Fellingham said.

    In the end, USD needs a long-range plan, including a conference, rather than just jumping into life as a Division I independent.

    That�s part of the current uncertainties in college athletics, Fellingham said. �There are no guarantees in life. The situation is always fluid,� he said.

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