USD joins Great West Conference All-Sports League The University of South Dakota athletic department announced today that it has joined the expanded all-sports Great West Conference. The announcement was made today at a press conference in the Al Neuharth Media Center on the USD campus. â�?�?This is a similar concept to when the Great West was started for football back in 2004,â�? Great West Conference commissioner Ed Grom said. â�?�?There were several NCAA Division I-AA independent schools that were looking for a conference home, and this was an opportunity every school embraced. Four years later, the Great West has become one of the most respected leagues in the Football Championship Subdivision. By adding more sports, we opened up opportunities for more schools and more student-athletes to compete for league titles and earn individual recognition.â�? South Dakota is one of six schools to join the NCAA Division I conference. The other five institutions that are joining the Great West Conference are Houston Baptist University (HBU), New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), University of North Dakota (UND), University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) and Utah Valley University. All six schools have accepted the invitation, and additional institutions may announce their acceptance in the next few months. The Great West will immediately provide compliance-related assistance to the institutions as well as provide one common avenue for National Letter of Intent filing, NCAA Coaches Certification Tests and general day-to-day correspondence on NCAA policy matters. During the 2008-09 season, while maintaining a higher level of attracting recognition to the leagueâ�?�?s football success, the Great West will also name players of the week and players of the month in all sponsored sports. â�?�?USDâ�?�?s decision to join the Great West Conference will provide an immediate positive impact on the athletic department in several ways, said athletic director Joel Nielsen. â�?�?First and foremost, our student-athletes will have the opportunity to compete for Division I conference championships along with various league honors. Our coaches will benefit greatly in recruiting to a league versus the independent status. The Great West will also assist in scheduling, providing more home contests in several sports. Another benefit of conference affiliation deals with compliance related issues, including National Letter of Intent filing, rules interpretations, compliance reviews, etc. In the end, this move to join the Great West is a positive move for The University of South Dakota, and most importantly, our student-athletes.â�? In addition to football, the Great West will sponsor menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s basketball, menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s cross country, baseball, menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s golf, menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s indoor and outdoor track and field, womenâ�?�?s soccer, softball, womenâ�?�?s tennis and volleyball. The Great West will actively seek associate members for 2009-10 in several team sports to assist in scheduling if it makes economical sense. â�?�?The University of South Dakota is proud to be associated with the Great West Conference,â�? USD President James W. Abbott said. â�?�?Sixteen Coyote sports, including both menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s basketball, will now join our football team in the league. Conference affiliation is extremely important to our Division I transition. Our students, coaches and fans will greatly benefit from this association. The Great West will also expand the universityâ�?�?s visibility in several metropolitan markets. We believe this is the right step for USD.â�? The Great West will conduct several championships in the 2008-09 year; menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s cross country, menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s golf, menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s indoor track and field, and menâ�?�?s and womenâ�?�?s outdoor track and field. The league will also honor top weekly and monthly performers in all sports in 2008-09. A full complement of conference scheduling will occur in 2009-10. â�?�?I believe that joining the Great West will give our student-athletes something to look forward to each year,â�? said USD menâ�?�?s basketball head coach Dave Boots. â�?�?The scheduling and recruiting will be a huge asset to our program during the transition period.â�? The Great West Football Conference includes the University of North Dakota, the University of South Dakota, Cal Poly, UC Davis and Southern Utah. Football-only members Cal Poly and UC Davis will remain in the Big West for the balance of their athletic teams, while Southern Utah will continue to compete in the Summit League. â�?�?Joining the Great West is a great opportunity for our student-athletes,â�? USD womenâ�?�?s track and field head coach Lucky Huber said. â�?�?To be affiliated with a conference is very important for all of our programs. It is also important to have something for our athletes to compete for and this will give them a chance to compete for weekly and postseason honors.â�? â�?�?This is a great situation for everyone involved with the conference,â�? said USD womenâ�?�?s basketball head coach Ryun Williams. â�?�?Joining the Great West Conference will really help with scheduling and at the same time provide great opportunities for the student-athletes to be recognized. Iâ�?�?m also excited about the postseason tournament, this will really help make the Division l transition much smoother.â�? With the expansion, the Great West will change its website from greatwestfootball.com to greatwestconference.org, effective immediately. A total redesign of the website will be completed by mid-September. The next month will be spent ratifying the Constitution, Bylaws and Sport Regulations of the Great West, as well as producing 2009-10 schedules for all team sports.