<
>

Gateway Conference eyes the Dakotas for expansion

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The Gateway Football Conference has
requested information from South Dakota State University and North
Dakota State University in preparation for possible expansion, said
Patty Viverito, the league's commissioner.

Conference member Western Kentucky is considering a move to NCAA
Division I-A football, which would leave the Gateway Football
Conference with seven members. Western Kentucky's board of regents
will vote Nov. 2 on the Division I-A matter.

"We've had conversations with both North Dakota State and South
Dakota State before," Viverito said. "But it didn't really make
sense to have any meaningful conversations about Gateway football
unless they had a foundation home for their other sports. The
planets aligned."

NDSU and SDSU are in the third year of a five-year transition
process from Division II to Division I. In September, they were
accepted into the Mid-Continent Conference in sports except
football. The Mid-Continent does not sponsor football.

A drawing card for SDSU and NDSU is that the Gateway champion
receives an automatic bid into the I-AA football playoffs.

"Certainly any established conference that has an automatic
qualifier is very important to any sport program," said SDSU
athletic director Fred Oien, who confirmed that the Gateway has
officially inquired about the school.

Other current members of the Gateway Football Conference are
Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa,
Southern Illinois, Western Illinois and Youngstown State.

SDSU and NDSU -- which join Cal Poly, UC-Davis and Southern Utah
in the Great West Football Conference -- will submit information to
the Gateway Conference regarding missions, academics, compliance
and the football program.

Viverito said there isn't a timeline for action, and the next
Gateway presidents meeting is scheduled for June.

"But chances are we'll need to move more quickly than that,"
she said. "We see ourselves as having a mutual window of
opportunity here."