August 3, 2010

Students and athletes

Writer Lorraine Collins of Spearfish offers her perspective on recent developments at Black Hills State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology regarding their new status in the NCAA. Her articles are published in the Black Hills Pioneer, and we thank her for allowing us to post them on Black Hills Monitor.
Not too long ago I was driving down the road listening to South Dakota Public Radio as I usually do and I heard a telephone interview with the fellow who had just been hired by the University of South Dakota to be their Athletic Director. USD had recently been approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to be a "Division I" school, and everyone seemed excited about that. This fellow had some experience in Division I schools, so he'd been hired to help USD go through the transition process to become a full fledged member in a couple of years or so.

One caller asked the new AD if he could expand the sports program to include hockey and the fellow said he wasn't sure because the NCAA required schools to have a women's sports program equal to men's and to offer equivalent athletic scholarships. After the long struggle to get Title IX enforced, I was happy to hear this. Later when I went to USD's website to check on things, I discovered that the university actually offers more women's sports than men's. Both men and women are offered basketball, track and field, cross country, golf and swimming and diving. The only thing men have that women don't is football. Women have soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. I tend to believe that the university has to offer those four women's sports to try to equal the amount spent on football. But that's just a suspicion.

Since Black Hills State University and the School of Mines & Technology have both just excitedly announced that they have been accepted into Division II of the NCAA, I wondered how their sports programs shape up. So I visited their websites, too. BHSU offers more women than men's sports but SDSM&T offers an equal number. It's interesting that all of these schools, in making their thrilling announcements about being accepted into a Division of the NCAA, immediately said they were going to have to raise a lot more money. One report indicated that SDSM&T's scholarship funds will need to more than double from $500,000 to more than a million.

Being in Division I or II of the NCAA means that schools are going to have to concentrate their fund raising efforts on offering scholarships to recruit athletes. Whether this should be the priority for our state supported institutions of higher education is a good question. I was surprised to read a statement by the Athletic Director of the School of Mines saying that about 65% of the school's athletes are from out of state. I presume this means that about 65% of the School of Mines athletic scholarships are given to students from out of state. This is something that alumni and donors may want to think about when they are asked to support athletic scholarships. I hope that scholarships for science, art, music, mathematics, drama, education, English and the like do not suffer because everyone is pouring money into sports scholarships.

The NCAA has many rules and requirements, one of which is that member schools must have a fulltime Athletic Director, which neither BHSU nor the School of Mines had until they began to make application for Division II status. There will no doubt be a number of other costs associated with achieving full membership in the Division, including getting associated with Division II conference and competing with schools in other states.

If BHSU and Mines join the Northern Sun Conference, they'll be with schools from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. If they find their way to the Rocky Mountain Conference they'll be with schools from Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico.

I suppose the least we can do is congratulate the schools on meeting the challenge of NCAA membership, while hoping that the schools don't lose track of what they are supposed to be doing for students who are not athletes.


Lorraine Collins is a writer who lives in Spearfish. She can be contacted at

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