About 4 years ago (or so), the Summit was known as the MCC Mid-Continent Conference.
I think commissioner Tom Douple had just come aboad and the conference was a mess.
They had schools spread out as far as SW Utah, Louisiana, Indiana, and Michigan.
The new candidates on the scene were up in the Dakotas.
At one point the conference was at 8.
Chicago State was a member, and I think there werre some incidents within their athletic department,
that hinted of loss of institutional control, or potential NCAA violations.
Chicago State abruptly announced they weere "going independent".
I think this was a way the MCC allowed them to save face, and not be publically kicked out of the MCC.
The MCC then expanded from 7 to 10, by adding IPFW, NDSU, and SDSU.
NDSU and SDSU were farther along their transition to D-1 than North Dakota and South Dakota, who were alos seen as potential members.
After Westtern Kentucky moved their FB from FCS (MVFC, then known as the Gateway Conference) up to FBS (Sun-Belt),
the MVFC added NDSU and SDSU for teams 8 and 9.
The conference changed it's name to "the Summit League" (they must have thought being at the Summmit let them look down at "the Horizon"...).
Centenary prepared to leave for D-III, and the Summit invited South Dakota. They accepted, but did not have an invitation to the MVFC yet, so continued to play FB in the GWFC.
Southern Utah always looked like they belonged in the Big Sky, and were passed over for that back in 2003, in lieu of Northern Colorado.
Finally in 2010, the Big Sky decided to devour the Great West Football Conference. They invited SUU for all sports, and UCDavis and Cal-Poly-SLO for FB only.
They also invited North Dakota and South Dakota for all sports.
South Dakota hedged, and at the last minute got the new #10 spot in the MVFC and remained in the Summit with NDSU, SDSU.
North Dakota would have loved the same arrangement, but didn't get it, since the MVFC was now at an even number, and North Dakota still had the "nickname issue".
Ideally, UN-Omaha would join and North Dakota and UNO would come aboard fora all sports and be MVFC #11 and #12.
Suddenly UNO jioined, but announced they were abandoning FB.
Apparently Nebraska politics is such that UN-L is funded to be THE D-1 FB team in the state,
so UNO AD Trev Alberts decided UNO would devote their funding to be THE D-1 hockey team in the state.
With the departure of ORU, UNO looks like the perfect travel partner for UMKC.
The conference geography is now:
SDSU - USD
UNO - UMKC
Western Illinois - IUPUI
Oakland - IPFW
Man, does North Dakota plug in there perfectly, if only the nickname situation gets resolved (it appears to be),
and they can find a home for FB (maybe the Big Sky would let them play FB there, until an MVFC slot opens).
Regardless of the Big Sky positives, one thing is for sure: the Summit would be better for UND than the Bog Sky simply because of the current membership. UND has much more in common with NDSU, SDSU, USD, UNO and the rest of the Summit than they do with SUU, Idaho St., NAU, Sac st., EWU, etc. But UND has football and needs a conference. There are no options that would make the MVFC budge so it's Big Sky for UND or nothing.
but you're right, you would think that the Big Sky would see the benefit of being able to cut their travel budgets for EVERY school by having UND switched to a FB only member. Want to schedule them for OOC, go for it. But it's senseless to want to have to force Sac St., NAU, and others to fly all their secondary sports through 1-2 time zones.