The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology along with the Hardrocker Athletics Dept. are pleased to announce the SD Mines football program has accepted an invitation to become an affiliate member within the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) beginning the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
SD Mines will become the seventh football-playing member of the GNAC, joining Central Washington, Simon Fraser (B.C.), Western Oregon, Dixie State (Utah), Humboldt State (Calif.) and Azusa Pacific (Calif.).
“The Great Northwest Athletic Conference is excited to add South Dakota School of the Mines as an affiliate member in football,” said GNAC Commissioner Dave Haglund. “We believe this strengthens not only football in our conference, but it also enhances NCAA Div. II football in the West. South Dakota Mines enters the GNAC with the full support of our conference presidents, athletic directors and head football coaches, and we look forward to incorporating them into the GNAC in 2014.”
Each of the seven institutions will play a six-game, single-round robin conference schedule. In addition, the six current members will also play three non-conference games against three of the other current GNAC teams.
SD Mines is currently in its third and final year of transition to full NCAA Div. II membership, therefore will be eligible for post-season play and various academic and athletic awards starting in the fall of 2013. The move should prove beneficial to both the GNAC and Hardrocker football as it will solidify SD Mine’s future Div. II schedules and add stability to the GNAC with the addition of another football playing institution.
“The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is pleased to receive the opportunity to become an affiliate member of the GNAC for football,” said interim university president Duane C. Hrncir. “We would like to thank all the GNAC presidents and athletics directors for showing a positive vote of confidence toward our membership. Our strong emphasis on the scholar-athlete experience will be a good fit with the ideals and values the GNAC so proudly upholds.”
The Hardrockers have extensively been looking for conference affiliation since making the move from NAIA to the NCAA Div. II level. SD Mines has competed as an independent institution during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. With a strong academic foundation as well as a competitive athletic tradition, SD Mines will be a welcome addition to the GNAC and prove to be a valuable asset.
“Our efforts to become a member of an outstanding Div. II football conference have been rewarded with the invitation we have received from the GNAC,” said Hardrocker Athletics Director Dr. Dick Kaiser. “We are extremely proud to be associated with such outstanding educational institutions and we will do everything within our power to be good stewards and a strong conference member.”
While South Dakota Mines will be new to the GNAC, the GNAC won’t be new to second-year Hardrocker head football coach Stacy Collins. Collins played linebacker for four seasons at Western Oregon (1993-97) and later coached at his alma mater (1998-02) and at Western Washington (2003-04) and Central Washington (2008-10).
“We will be competing in one of the top NCAA Div. II conferences in the nation.” Collins said. “Year in and year out, the GNAC has developed programs that exemplify great play on the field, excellence in the classroom and world class sportsmanship. The GNAC represents a wide range of universities that highlight what the Div. II student-athlete experience is all about.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for our student-athletes,” Collins added. “I know from first-hand experience, both as a former player and as a former coach in the GNAC, what a unique experience this conference will provide.”
SD Mines has already set its 2013 schedule but the Hardrockers are anxious to join the GNAC ranks in 2014. Not only will it provide very competitive NCAA Div. II competition but it will be the first opportunity in the program’s 117-year history the Hardrockers have ever faced a GNAC opponent.
“Our players our ecstatic about joining the conference and we are looking forward to competing against outstanding opponents on a weekly basis.” Collins added. “The travel opportunities ranging up and down the West Coast from Canada to Southern California will add to our student-athletes’ overall educational experience. The GNAC is a great fit for our institution.”
Football will be the second sport in which the GNAC has granted SD Mines affiliate membership. The Hardrocker men’s soccer team will compete in the GNAC as an affiliate member during the 2013 season.
“The excitement on our campus to be affiliated with the GNAC in a second sport cannot be totally expressed in words,” Kaiser added. “The gleam in the eyes of our student-athletes and the overall campus spirit that has grown since the announcement was made has been just overwhelming. This truly is a great day to be a Hardrocker.”
As an affiliate member, SD Mines will be awarded the same benefits and opportunities as every other member of the GNAC such as: all-conference awards; conference championship participation; player-of-the-week honors; academic all-conference honors; and preseason poll voting.
Courtesy: SD Mines