Wednesday, March 23, 2011

West of the Mississippi...

Teams are being added and dropped, and schools are conference hopping.
Not sure if it's the conference hopping that is encouraging institutions to the get their houses in order in terms of Title IX compliance, but it is certainly having that effect.
The University of Montana has slightly-more-than tentative plans to add women's softball to their roster of intercollegiate sports. The state of Montana has no DI softball, which isn't especially surprising given the limitations the weather puts on spring sports, but recent survey data show that softball is the sport undergraduate women would like to see added. Though Montana administrators maintain that they didn't think they "were close to being out of compliance" they knew that they couldn't keep administering the annual interest survey and not do anything. (Not sure why they held that belief in the first place. Simply collecting data does not make one compliant.) Not sure if the NCAA held similar beliefs about Montana's compliance. In the university's last reaccreditation administrators were apparently told that adding another women's sport would be "the right thing to do." Montana is able, it seems, to read between the lines. And its plans to move to the Big Sky Conference likely pushed forward the plan for softball. The Big Sky needs one more softball-playing school in order to hold a conference tournament. But softball is still a ways off, at least three years according to the athletic director. The program is estimated to cost about half a million dollars annually so funds need to be raised, a coach hired, and players recruited.
A different conference hop is forcing another school to do the drop/add shuffle. University of Nebraska-Omaha, a DII school (except for men's hockey), is making the move to DI. It has been invited to the Summit League and given the NCAA's lifting of the ban on division hopping that will happen in June, and that conferences hold the power to invite, UNO has decided to make the leap, something they apparently have been considering for a while now. Not knowing when another such opportunity will come along, the university is making sure everything is in order for the 2012 move.
But unfortunately football and wrestling will not be coming along. The university cited the immense costs of football and the inability to bring wrestling up to DI levels without a large amount of cash as the reason for the cuts. Good news though for a couple of the so-called men's minor sports: UNO will be adding men's golf and soccer.