Here's the story before it was cut up for the AP: -http://www.in-forum.com/articles/cache/?id=30963
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NDSU, other orphans may form own league
By Jeff Kolpack
The Forum - 04/04/2003
Talks to create a new Division I-AA football conference to include North Dakota State University are expected to begin this spring.
NDSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor and University of Northern Colorado Athletic Director Jim Fallis say there is strong interest to form a seven-team football league.
It would include: NDSU; UNC; South Dakota State University, Southern Utah State College, Cedar City; University of California-Davis; Cal Poly-San Louis Obispo; and St. Mary’s College, Moraga, Calif.
The timing would be ideal for NDSU, SDSU, Cal-Davis and UNC, all in the process of moving to NCAA Division I. Southern Utah, Cal Poly and St. Mary’s are Division I-AA members who haven’t had success as independents. They have never made the playoffs.
Taylor and Fallis say they are targeting play to begin in 2004-05.
“We want to put together a conference call or a meeting, hopefully before the end of the school year,” Taylor said.
That does not mean NDSU would end its pursuit to enter the Big Sky Conference.
“If all of a sudden the Big Sky comes back this fall and says, ‘You’re in,’ then we have to take the best option available to us,” Taylor said.
But a new football league would allow for other sports to enter the Mid-Continent Conference. That league, which includes Southern Utah, does not have football.
Those in the Mid-Continent Conference include: Centenary College, Shreveport, La.; Chicago State University; Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis; University of Missouri-Kansas City; Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Okla.; Southern Utah; Valparaiso University, Indiana; and Western Illinois University, Macomb. “All options are still on the table,” said SDSU Athletic Director Fred Oien. “Nobody has told us ‘no.’”
Fallis acquired a copy of the Division I-AA Gateway Football Conference bylaws and said he would put together a list of rules and regulations.
“It makes sense for all of us,” Fallis said. “It would be stupid not to because we’re all going to be playing each other anyway.”
UNC will play an independent schedule this fall. Cal-Davis is a Division II independent that plays several I-AA opponents each year.
Cal Poly Athletic Director John McCutcheon says his school isn’t unhappy playing an independent schedule.
“But we would prefer to be in a league,” he said. “We always keep our options open in that area. If there is an interest from a group of schools, we would entertain those discussions.”
It would also help a school like Cal Poly gain a playoff bid as an automatic qualifier. Eight conferences are granted automatic qualifier status in the 16-team Division I-AA playoff field. The Patriot League in 1997 was the last conference to gain that acceptance.
If a new league is formed, however, it would probably take at least five years to gain automatic-qualifier status.
“Those are things we need to talk about,” Taylor said.
A conference needs at least six established Division I schools to immediately gain automatic-qualifier distinction. As for a potential name for the league, Fallis said, “That is the least of my worries right now. I just want to get this thing off the ground by 04-05.”