Monday, January 22, 2007

Cost of D-1, again 

Alumni are reporting to me that a meeting of the athletic program at SCSU discussing a move of other sports to Division I NCAA status -- hockey is already D-1 -- led to some tough questions asked of our athletic director. Interestingly, yesterday the local paper ran a column by its sports editor, Dave Deland, which mourns the move to D-1 by South Dakota State, at least its basketball program.

In its last nine Division II seasons, South Dakota State led the nation in men's basketball attendance six times, with a peak of 5,350 in 1997-98. The Jackrabbits' home record in those nine seasons: 125-15.

"A lot of times, it was hard to communicate with players on floor because of the noise. We had to use hand signals," Schlagel said. "It was the event in that area of the state."

Said Huskies athletic director Morris Kurtz: "They were the crown jewel of Division II basketball."

No longer. Brookings is now the Siberia of men's college basketball: the Jacks are in the big time, and the big time is treating them shabbily.

Since South Dakota State quit the NCC and moved up to Division I in 2004-05, the men's basketball program has gone from being a Division II national power to a Division I punching bag.

The timing of this column is a little fishy. There is nothing timely about an article about SDSU, unless it's because of the meeting last Monday. At that meeting individuals pointed out that the record of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference -- into which the rump North Central Conference would be folded into -- was to have won more than 80% less than 20% of men's basketball games, and to not have lost won a single football game. It was pointed out that student activity fees -- which could be used to fund a move to D-1 -- are lower at St. Cloud than any of the Dakota schools. A $50 per student per semester increase for athletics would provide about $1.4 million per year. The university claims that it would need $1.3 million in additional scholarship money to move to D-1, but summing up the cost of the scholarships needed, said one person at the meeting, came up to only $450,000. No justification was given to the discrepancy between the numbers.

The column compares South Dakota State's participation as an independent D-1 school to its performance as a member of a highly-ranked and very popular D-2 conference. How many independent D-1 programs make money besides Notre Dame? Even Penn State finally succumbed to the Big Ten Eleven. The proper comparison can only be made if and when SDSU can join a real conference ... which could be the old NCC if schools get their acts together.

One speculation: Four of the NSIC schools are members of MnSCU, as are petitioners St. Cloud State and MSU-Mankato. Will there be pressure from the chancellor to grease the skids to allow the two big schools in with the rest of MnSCU? Because if there's not, why would the NSIC allow two schools with 13-14,000 student bodies join a conference with no school over 10,000, and against which the NSIC schools have not been very competitive?

UPDATE: Twisted a sentence up badly, whoops! Edits displayed.