As the Conferences Turn

In my talks with Frontier Conference commissioner Kent Paulson earlier this week, he hinted at further expansion beyond Dickinson State and Southern Oregon.

On Friday, we found out what he might mean by that.

Rumors had persisted since last Friday that Black Hills State had been invited to join the NCAA Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference while South Dakota Mines had not been.

South Dakota Mines athletic director Dick Kaiser has confirmed to the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal that his school did not receive an invitation to join the RMAC. The Hardrockers’ transition from the NAIA to Division II hinges on getting into a conference and the RMAC has long been seen to be their only viable option. With that option seemingly off the table, Kaiser gave Journal sports reporter Jeff Budlong an interesting quote about the state of South Dakota Mines’ athletics.

“We could stay in the NAIA or go into another NAIA league,” he said. “I know the Dakota Athletic Conference would be interested in having us back, and the Frontier Conference has expressed interest.”

And there it is.

The Frontier wants to continue expanding and a new candidate has meekly raised its hand down in Rapid City.

But what truly makes this story so interesting is that when Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines announced they were leaving the NAIA and the DAC to pursue NCAA Division II status, the whole theory behind it was that they wanted to move hand-in-hand.

Now that Black Hills State seems to be on solid footing and the ice appears to be cracking beneath South Dakota Mines’ feet, that story seems to have changed.

“We can only consider what we have as an option that has been put in front of us,” Black Hills State Jhett Albers said. “We have to determine if that is what is best for us and Black Hills State.”

Stay tuned to this, because there’s always another chapter waiting in this collegiate soap opera … “As the Conferences Turn.”

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