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New conference to be announced Wednesday

2/24/2004

FARGO, N.D. -- Officials at North Dakota State University
and six other colleges are set to announce the creation of a new
NCAA Division I-AA football league known as the Great West Football
Conference.

An official at one of the schools said the new conference will
include NDSU, South Dakota State, Southern Utah, Cal Poly-San Luis
Obispo, California Davis, St. Mary's College (Calif.) and Northern
Colorado.

Bison athletic director Gene Taylor on Monday declined to
release specific details, saying some of those details still needed
to be worked out.

"It would be a great thing," Taylor said. "This would give us
a schedule and a league with a conference championship and
individual honors."

Northern Colorado athletic director Jim Fallis and South Dakota
State athletic director Fred Oien refused comment on the new
league. Those schools, along with NDSU, have scheduled press
conferences for Wednesday afternoon.

Next year will be NDSU's first season in Division I-AA. NCAA
rules dictate that the Bison will not be eligible for the playoffs
for five years. The Bison would play all six teams in the new
league for the upcoming season, Taylor said.

The Bison currently have only two home games on the schedule,
against Cal Poly and Northwestern State (La.). Southern Utah also
has shown interest in coming to Fargo. Taylor said he wants a
five-game home slate next fall that would include other Division
I-AA opponents outside of the new league.

"If we can get some of the teams we're talking to, it will add
some interest for our fans," Taylor said. "It seems like every
time I mention a team by name, they back out, so I'm going to stop
mentioning them."

The Bison still are interested in joining a conference with all
sports, Taylor said. School officials have been lobbying the Big
Sky Conference for at least the last two years.

"This new football league would be a step," Taylor said. "If
the Big Sky were to come along or some other all-sports conference,
that would be an option."

Member schools in the new league met in December in Las Vegas to
discuss bylaws and scheduling. They met again last month at the
NCAA convention in Nashville, Tenn., and had a conference call last
week, Taylor said.

NDSU, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State and UC Davis are in
the early stages of moving to Division I-AA. Cal Poly, St. Mary's
and Southern Utah are independents.

Bison head football coach Craig Bohl did not return a phone
message on Monday.