Summit League Visits Nebraska-Omaha
The Summit League is back in expansion exploratory mode. Following the Summit League conference tournament, officials headed south for a visit to Nebraksa-Omaha.
UNO is currently in Division 2, but has been considering an upgrade to Division 1, especially since athletic director Trev Alberts came aboard.
UNO has made sense for some time for the Summit League. Their proximity to members such as NDSU, SDSU, UMKC and others, while adding the Omaha market could be benefits for the Summit, a conference that has re-identified itself since the additions of the Dakota schools (USD will be joining as well) and the loss of Centenary in Louisiana.
The most interesting part of UNO potentially joining the Summit will be what happens with their football program.
This past year, it appeared that the Big Sky was set to bring in Southern Utah, North Dakota and South Dakota. Both Dakota schools wanted a second option, to join the MVFC, but that option didn’t exist due to the MVFC wanting even number membership. So when SUU and UND announced they were joining the Big Sky, the MVFC (and Summit commissioner Tom Douple) brought forth the idea of South Dakota joining the MVFC at it’s 10th member. So in a last second move, South Dakota passed on the Big Sky, opting to join SDSU and NDSU in the Summit League and MVFC.
At the time, the MVFC, wanting either 10 or 12 members, meant North Dakota was on the outside of that group and instead comfortably poised for the Big Sky.
But with UNO considering an upgrade, it will likely bring UND back into the Summit discussions.
If the Summit does convince UNO to upgrade, they will likely need to provide a conference home for their football program, as it would be unwise for UNO to upgrade and forced to play football as an independent. And if the Summit works to get UNO in the MVFC, they will likely need a 12th football member to join as well.
North Dakota, having it’s own Division 1 upgrade issues right now, at least has the comfort in knowing that if they opted to back out of the Big Sky acceptance, they could do so with no penalty, as per Big Sky commissioner Fullerton.
It might require a kick to UND pride, but a move to the Summit and MVFC is a win. They’d have a better travel situation by joining the other 3 Dakota schools, along with UNO. And on the football side, a move to the MVFC could be considered an upgrade due to the proximity of the leagues members. And for the Big Sky, adding UND and USD made sense at appeared some Big sky members might be leaving for the WAC. But that never happened. And USD backed out. So now North Dakota is set to join a conference with members in California and along the Pacific up into Portland, southwest into Northern Arizona…and has to travel for all sports. Had USD joined as well, travel would not be as bad for Big Sky members. But now, it means Sacramento St. needs to fly to North Dakota for a single game with no second game to schedule at a nearby opponent.
The Big Sky also is not set at an awkward 11 all-sports members and 13 football members. A UND migration to the Summit/MVFC would bring the Big Sky to a manageable 10/12 members.