MSU President's Newspaper Column

March 16, 2024

Identifying an athletic conference home is an extremely important effort

Since we first learned in the fall of 2023 that the North Star Athletic Conference (NSAA) would be disbanding after the 2024-25 academic year, we have been exploring options for a conference home for Mayville State Athletics. Mayville State has been a member of the NSAA since its beginning in 2013-14. The association and its member institutions are subject to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) rules and regulations. 

Finding a suitable athletic conference affiliation is extremely important to Comet Athletics and for the university as a whole. For a large population of Mayville State students, the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics is a very important factor in the decision of whether to attend Mayville State. This opportunity allows these student athletes to play the sports they love while earning their college degrees.

Current NSAA member schools are Bellevue (Neb.), Dakota State (S.D.), Dickinson State, Mayville State, Valley City State, and Viterbo (Wis.). A minimum of six schools are needed to maintain the conference structure. Former member schools, Presentation College and Iowa Wesleyan, have closed within the last year. Former NSAA member Waldorf (Iowa) left to join the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) last fall. Starting with the 2024-25 year, Viterbo will leave the NSAA to join the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Jamestown University will join the NSAA for the 2024-25 year only, as they await their entrance into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. At the conclusion of the 2024-25 year, the North Star will be down to five member schools, leaving those schools in a position of needing to find another conference. One thing is certain. There will need to be a change. Staying where we are is not an option.

Together with Interim Athletic Director Rocky Larson and his assistants, Dennis Hutter and Billy Tomblin, as well as the president’s cabinet and the entire athletic department, we have been exploring options for Mayville State. The hours invested in this important project are countless, and I thank all who have been working, and will continue to work hard, to help us find a resolution to this challenging situation.

Some considerations in the decision-making process for Mayville State include travel distances for games, the sports offered by the various conferences, and the ability to offer athletic scholarships. We know that no matter what happens, there will be a need for greater financial resources.

One must keep in mind that we can’t just decide to join an athletic conference. The athletic conference must invite us and accept us as a member. It must be a mutually agreed-upon arrangement. We have been speaking with various conferences and will continue to do so until a decision has been made.

One option Mayville State has been considering is the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC). The UMAC is comprised of eight full-time member schools from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Bethany Lutheran College, Crown College, Martin Luther College, North Central University, Northland College, University of Minnesota Morris, University of Northwestern, and University of Wisconsin-Superior make up the league's full-time membership. Greenville University and Westminster College (Mo.) are associate members in the sport of football.  

The UMAC is a member of the NCAA Division III. The rules that govern the NCAA are different from the rules of the NAIA, the governing organization with which Mayville State has been affiliated for years.

We had the pleasure of hosting nine representatives of the UMAC at Mayville State University on Monday, March 11. The group included UMAC Commissioner Corey Borchardt, as well as presidents, vice presidents, and athletic directors of various member schools. Throughout the day, Mayville State University faculty, staff, and students had an opportunity to visit with the UMAC contingent. It was a great time for university personnel and the conference representatives to get to know one another.

At this time, we do not know if Mayville State will receive an invitation to join the UMAC or if the UMAC will be the right fit for us, but we are grateful for the opportunity to explore one option in the ongoing decision-making process. We will continue to work hard to make the best possible decision for Mayville State University and our student athletes.