In 2008, the Division-II North Central Conference (NCC) dissolved as USD and North Dakota moved to Division-I and five other schools joined the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) at the Division-II level.
The NCC started in 1921 with USD, SDSU, NDSU and UND as four of the nine charter members. NDSU and SDSU started the transition to Division-I in 2004.
Five members of the NCC have moved to the Summit League. With Augustana’s new plans to join the Division-I level, the Summit League could extend an offer. Augustana will be a Division-I school, but what conference they join is up in the air until they accept a bid from a conference.
Augustana had rivalries with USD and SDSU when the schools were in the NCC together. With the proximity of the three schools, it made sense for fans to travel more for games, creating a stronger rivalry. But, while USD had a rivaled Augustana, it wasn’t as strong as the rivalry Auggie had with SDSU, academic advisor David Lorenz said.
However, USD fans at the time anticipated matchups between the Coyotes and another school.
“Our rivalry with Morningside in Sioux City was about equal with our rivalry with Augustana,” Lorenz said.
If Augustana were to join the Summit League, six of their 10 members would be from the NCC. Purdue-Fort Wayne is leaving in July 2020 and Kansas City (UMKC) is rejoining the Summit League in 2020 to replace them. That leaves the conference at nine teams. Adding a tenth team could increase competition and give the conference a more rounded number of teams.
If the conference doesn’t want to expand past nine schools, there are three schools located outside the Dakotas or Omaha that raise questions in terms of travel costs. Western Illinois, Oral Roberts and Denver are all a distance away from the Dakota schools.
Western Illinois is unlikely to leave in the immediate future unless finances become a major concern for them, as they are the only university still in the conference from its beginning. Oral Roberts re-joined in 2014, but their location in Tulsa, Oklahoma makes for quite a trip to any opponent within the conference. Denver joined the conference in 2013, but again, the distance is a potential concern.
Augustana will be the only Division-I university in Sioux Falls, S.D., home of the Summit League’s new headquarters, so it would make sense for the conference to extend an offer. Augustana could renew rivalries with SDSU and USD, schools they haven’t played in over a decade.
Since Summit League schools are small Division-I programs, trying to continue localizing the conference to limit conference travel costs. Adding Augustana would benefit them greatly.