GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The University of North Dakota’s athletic teams will soon be reunited in rivalry with their counterparts at the other Dakota schools.
UND has verbally agreed to join the Summit League in the fall of 2018 for most of its athletic programs, the Grand Forks Herald has learned. Summit League commissioner Tom Douple is expected at a press conference Thursday in Grand Forks.
UND also is finalizing a move to the Missouri Valley Football Conference. MVFC presidents will vote on the move Wednesday. It is expected to pass.
Once the MVFC move is finalized, UND will sign the contract to join the Summit League and officially leave the Big Sky.
“We’re still in the process of having conversations,” UND athletic director Brian Faison said Tuesday. “Once it is finalized, one way or the other, we’ll address it publicly at that time.”
UND will play its final season as a full member of the Big Sky Conference in 2017-18. Most sports will join the Summit League as full members the following year.
UND won’t join the Missouri Valley Football Conference until 2020. The plan is to play as a full member of the Big Sky Conference in 2017 and as an affiliate member in 2018 and 2019.
As an affiliate member, UND would not be eligible to get the league’s automatic qualifier to the FCS playoffs or win the league regular season championship. But if UND does win the league, it won’t need the automatic bid to get in the playoffs, anyway.
The Summit League does not sponsor football.
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Idaho's football team, currently in the FBS Sun Belt Conference, is dropping down to rejoin the Big Sky beginning in the 2018 season.
The move will put UND back in the same conference as North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State, just as they were in their Division II days as members of the North Central Conference.
NDSU and SDSU moved to NCAA Division I in 2004, while UND and USD stayed Division II, splitting the Dakota schools.
UND and USD both moved to Division I five years later.
UND nearly joined the Summit League in 2010, but couldn’t secure a home for football in the Missouri Valley, so it went to the Big Sky instead. UND became a Big Sky member in July of 2012.
South Dakota was set to join UND in the Big Sky, but received a last-minute invite to the Missouri Valley and ended up joining NDSU and SDSU in both the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Summit League.
Members of the Summit League are NDSU, SDSU, USD, Omaha, Denver, Western Illinois, Fort Wayne (Ind.), Oral Roberts, and IUPUI (Indiana-Purdue).
Members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference are NDSU, SDSU, USD, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Indiana State, Youngstown State and Missouri State.