GRAND FORKS, N.D. - University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy and Athletics Director Brian Faison announced today that the University of North Dakota has accepted an invitation to join The Summit League beginning with the 2018-19 academic year and the Missouri Valley Football Conference beginning with the 2020-2021 academic year.
“This is an important move for UND Athletics and for our fans,” Kennedy said. “We have appreciated our time in the Big Sky Conference and we thank our friends in that conference for their hospitality and the opportunity to have competed against some excellent teams. But we are excited to renew long-treasured rivalries in joining many of our former conference companions in The Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference. We look forward to competitions that are closer to home, which will allow our fans to attend more away games, and we look forward to hosting our long-time rivals and their fans in Grand Forks.”
UND received formal invitations from The Summit League on Tuesday, Jan. 24 and the Missouri Valley Football Conference on Wednesday concluding a process that began when the presidents of those respective conference universities voted to invite UND to join their memberships.
“This is an important day for UND Athletics and the University as we announce new athletic conference affiliations," said Faison. "Both The Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference are great fits for North Dakota geographically and competitively. Our fans are going to enjoy having past rivalries renewed, now in a league setting. And, both conferences will have a positive financial impact on the athletics department.”
Wednesday, President Kennedy formally announced to The Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple and Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner Patty Viverito that UND had accepted those invitations.
UND will officially join The Summit League on July 1, 2018, and Missouri Valley Football Conference July 1, 2020 but will begin working immediately with the current membership on scheduling, marketing, and other conference matters.
“On behalf of the President’s Council, I am pleased to announce the University of North Dakota as the newest member of The Summit League,” said Douple. “The university has a strong academic reputation and a history of successful athletics, which makes it a tremendous addition and fit for our league. This addition of UND clearly strengthens the quality and depth of The Summit League’s membership.”
UND teams that will compete in The Summit League are men’s and women’s basketball; men’s and women’s cross country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field; men’s and women’s golf; soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving; men’s and women’s tennis; and volleyball.
Thursday’s additions bring the future Summit League to 10 members and the Missouri Valley Football Conference to 11 members.
“The addition of the University of North Dakota to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020 will complete the league’s FCS footprint in the Midwest,” Viverito said. “This also will re-establish long-standing football rivalries in the Dakotas and open the way for equally satisfying new rivalries throughout the league. Most importantly, UND brings yet another nationally competitive program to the MVFC which is already, arguably, the strongest FCS conference.”
North Dakota is the first institution to join The Summit League since Oral Roberts rejoined the conference on July 1, 2014. North Dakota is the first institution to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference since South Dakota on July 1, 2012.
The MVFC will require a $300,000 initial membership fee, payable over several years, while The Summit League’s initial membership is $250,000. There is no monetary penalty for leaving the Big Sky Conference or the Western Athletic Conference (swimming and diving). The Fighting Hawk football team will play a Big Sky schedule as an independent for the 2018 and 2019 seasons and will not be eligible for the league’s NCAA Tournament automatic-qualifying bid. Last season, four Big Sky schools earned postseason berths into the 24-team Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) championships.
UND has spent the last five years in the Big Sky Conference with the men’s and women’s swimming and diving program in the Western Athletic Conference. During the NCAA Division I reclassification UND competed in the Great West Conference. Prior to that, UND had been a charter member of the now-defunct North Central Conference since 1922.
"There were a lot of moving parts in this conference realignment and I want to thank Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams, The Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple and Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner Patty Viverito for their engagement in this process," said Faison.
Founded in 1883, UND has built a well-respected tradition of athletics and academic excellence. UND athletics teams have won 12 NCAA championships, including eight in Division I men's ice hockey (second-most only to Michigan's nine), three in Division II women's basketball and one in Division II football, and 127 individual NCAA championships.
UND has also won 150 conference team championships in the Great West Conference, North Central Conference (NCC), Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). The long history of team success has resulted in national recognition for the well over 1,500 UND student-athletes who have garnered All-America honors.
Since making the transition to NCAA Division I competition in 2008-09, UND’s student-athletes have earned 25 Academic All-America honors, 10 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, and five prestigious NCAA academic awards.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
UND Head Football Coach Bubba Schweigert on the Missouri Valley Football Conference:
"This is an exciting move for our program's future because it realigns us with our past and the rich history we have with many teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Our fans will also benefit from this because they can drive down I-29 to watch us play. With that being said, we are thankful for the Big Sky and the place it will have in our Division I history. We look forward to continuing to compete against those institutions in the coming years."
UND Head Men’s Basketball Coach Brian Jones on The Summit League:
"Moving to The Summit League brings our natural rivals back, which I think will energize our fan base. They will be able to get to some road games and easily get to Sioux Falls for the conference tournament. It's also bittersweet because we will always be grateful to the Big Sky and the opportunity it provided for us to grow as a Division I institution."
UND Head Women’s Basketball Coach Travis Brewster:
“The Big Sky has been very good to us and it’s been a great run there. Going to a Midwestern league has positives for us for our student-athletes and our fan base. We look forward to being able to playing our in-state rivals and the I-29 corridor teams twice a year. That will be exciting for everybody. This has our student-athletes’ best interest in mind as well.”
UND Head Volleyball Coach Mark Pryor:
“I think that The Summit League will allow us to continue to grow in attendance with more regional rivalries.”