The Missouri Valley Football Conference will swell to 10 teams beginning in 2012 with Thursday’s announcement that the University of South Dakota has accepted an invitation to join the league.
“We have stabilized and strengthened FCS football in the Midwest, and we have most certainly strengthened our conference,” Valley commissioner Patty Viverito said. “This is a course of action that makes total sense for our conference, our member institutions, our fans and most importantly our student-athletes. And not just for today, but for decades to come.”
South Dakota is in its third year of transition from Division II into Division I athletics and currently competes in the Great West Conference, which will disband after the 2011 season. The Coyotes will become a member of The Summit League in sports other than football.
“To join a league as strong as the Missouri Valley Football Conference is very exciting for South Dakota,” Coyotes’ athletic director David Sayler said. “The MVFC is an established group with regional ties to some great rivalries and that is what college football is built on.”
North Dakota was announced as an addition to the Big Sky Conference earlier this week and many thought South Dakota would follow suit. But USD instead joined the MVFC, which brought aboard South Dakota State and North Dakota State in 2008.
Illinois State was “absolutely” in favor of South Dakota joining the Valley, according to director of athletics Sheahon Zenger.
“We certainly like our nine-team format. It’s a good model,” Zenger said. “But if we could find a 10th team in the Midwest, that also works very well. South Dakota is the obvious institution we had not brought into our league.”
The addition of the Coyotes will not alter ISU’s schedule in the near future. The Redbirds had previously announced a three-year agreement with South Dakota playing at Hancock Stadium in 2011 and 2013 and ISU traveling to Vermillion, S.D., in 2012.
“South Dakota is a great program from a strong league and adding them to the MVFC will only solidify our conference as one of the best in the Football Championship Subdivision,” ISU coach Brock Spack said. “Just like North Dakota State and South Dakota State, who have fared well in our league since joining, South Dakota knows how to play tough, hard-nosed football.”
MVFC associate commissioner Mike Kern said that with an eye on travel expenses the league will retain an eight-game conference schedule in 2012, meaning each school will play eight of the nine other teams. Kern indicated that could change in 2013 and 2014 when FCS programs are permitted 12 regular-season games.
“We’re OK with whatever format the commissioner comes up with,” said Zenger. “We have the benefit of a long (nonconference) rivalry with Eastern Illinois. Sometimes it’s brutal finding that last nonconference game.”