Weighing options: JC considers staying in NAIA, move to NCAA D-IIIJamestown College president Robert Badal says the school plans to make a decision on the future home of its athletics program by the end of the year. Badal expressed optimism about the options the school is considering. “Compared to where we were just a year ago, we feel like we’re standing a lot taller,” he said. “There have been a few ups and downs, but overall I have to say I’m optimistic about the options we have in front of us.”
Jamestown College president Robert Badal says the school plans to make a decision on the future home of its athletics program by the end of the year.
Badal expressed optimism about the options the school is considering.
“Compared to where we were just a year ago, we feel like we’re standing a lot taller,” he said. “There have been a few ups and downs, but overall I have to say I’m optimistic about the options we have in front of us.”
The school won’t rush the decision, but expects to make a recommendation to the board in the next five or six months.
“I don’t think it can happen much before that as we continue to gather as much information as we can,” he said. “We have two different options, and we have to make sure the decision we recommend to the board is the right one.”
Last summer, Jamestown College, along with Dickinson State, Valley City State and Mayville State had pushed forward with an appeal to stay together as a 5-team conference. The fifth team in the scenario, however, Dakota State, suddenly decided to leave the group and become an NAIA independent.
That effectively scuttled any hopes of keeping the Dakota Athletic Conference together and tossed the four North Dakota schools into heavy uncertainty.
Since then, Dickinson State has announced it will join the Montana-based Frontier Conference for the 2012-13 year, while the other three schools remain in limbo.
Jamestown College appears to have two viable alternatives, although, neither is ideal.
The Frontier Conference has made no attempt to hide their desire in adding Jamestown College. There is mutual interest from JC, but there are hurdles, most notably geography. Of the Frontier’s 11 schools, six are located in Montana, but four of the other five are spread across Idaho, Utah and Oregon.
Jamestown College did apply for football membership in the Frontier last year, but reconsidered and is now mulling full application. If they were to apply, they would be welcomed with open arms.
“When we look to the west, the Frontier is making some changes that may work in our favor,” Badal said, referring to the possibility of that conference setting up East and West divisions, which would limit travel.
It would also allow them to remain in the NAIA, which permits scholarships. Their other option does not.
The Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, or UMAC, is an NCAA Division III league, which just recently has decided to consider expansion.
The UMAC has eight full and five associate members, most notably Minnesota-Morris, Northwestern (St. Paul), Presentation College in Aberdeen and St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. Six of the eight full members are located in Minnesota, which would significantly lessen travel time and would be considerably cheaper, Badal noted.
“We can’t get into a situation where we have just this wrenching, seemingly impossible schedule where we’re criss-crossing the country. It’d be nice if we had a 747, but we don’t,” Badal said. “That would put us at a place where athletics were above academics and that’s not a decision Jamestown College is ever going to make.”
There is considerable unease among JC alumni about the school’s athletic future.
Tessa Gould, a 1996 graduate, collected more than 50 signatures from fellow alumni and sent a letter to Badal expressing those concerns.
“It’s not as if we’re making demands or threats, but we wanted to make sure they know how we felt, and that there’s a lot of interest in how this all plays out,” she said. “We all want what’s best for Jamestown College, but I think a lot of us want to know where we’re ultimately going.
“We view this as an opportunity for growth for Jamestown College athletics and hopefully decisions are made quickly and in the best interests of the school and the future.”
Avoiding the upheaval and uncertainty of the past year has led the school to take a pragmatic approach to finding a solution, even if takes a little longer than they would like.
“The last thing we can do, and we won’t do, is to make a snap decision that puts us in situation where a year or two down the road we’re right back where we are now,” he said.
Both options have positives and negatives, but the key point is they have choices to consider, which a year ago was not the case.
“It’s been a long process, frustrating at times, but we also had the approach of being patient because this is an extremely important issue for us,” Badal said. “I think it’s hard to get into theoretical likes and dislikes as it pertains to either option we have. What we have are two legitimate options and now it’s a matter of coming to the correct decision for Jamestown College.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org