By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The Summit League has announced it will study the impact of adding football as the league’s 14th sponsored sport. Commissioner Tom Douple said the potentially year-long study will project what the league could look like in 10 years.
“Right now, we have multiple teams in multiple conferences. Is that the model we want to have in 10 years?” Douple said. “It may well be after we do this study. But we really want to take a look at it.”
The study, led by Western Illinois President Al Goldfarb, will include a team of athletics directors, senior woman administrators and others from the Summit League, in addition to outside consultants. Goldfarb and the team will examine how the league operates, the benefits and drawbacks of adding a sport like football, and other factors.
Football was a league-sponsored sport when the conference formed in 1982 as the Division II Association of Mid-Continent Universities. When membership changed and the conference became a Division I league, football was not sponsored, Douple said. The conference became the Summit League in 2007. If football were to be added, it would be at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
The league currently has 11 members, but Centenary (Louisiana) has applied to reclassify to Division III after the next academic year. The conference recently added North Dakota State and South Dakota State (2006-07 was the first year of league competition for the two schools). South Dakota will become a full member in the 2011-12 academic year.
The league also is considering inviting North Dakota. The process for adding a school could take six to eight months. A site visit and study period are included in the assessment.
North Dakota plays football in the Great West Conference, along with Summit members South Dakota and Southern Utah. North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Western Illinois all play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Douple said his league is working closely with those conferences to determine what impact a Summit League decision to sponsor football would have.
Douple expects to have a decision within a year.
“We are really excited about this study,” he said. “We think we can get a lot of good questions answered.”