Decision On Inviting Augustana Likely Imminent As Summit Expansion Pushes Through Pandemic

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Summit League President's Council is meeting this weekend and one of the potential topics could well be a decision on whether or not to invite Augustana University as the conference's expansion process adapts to the current state of the world.

Though the idea of conference expansion amid the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic might seem like a stretch now, the Summit League is pressing forward with 2021 vision.

"You only get so much of the pie to give out and expansion has an effect on that obviously. But I think it's something that we want to keep to the forefront also for the future. We think we're going to get over this hump and we've got to be strategically thinking about how we're going to position ourselves for the future." Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple says.

While St. Thomas University out of the Twin Cities has it's invitation to join the Summit in hand, the NCAA Division One council's hearing and ruling on their request to move up from Division Three has been delayed until next month.

"It was still going to be a year away, they were only looking at the fall of 2021, so we would have a whole year. Where it effects us is on scheduling." Douple says.

As the pandemic hit Augustana was applying for membership and, under normal circumstances, would have welcomed Summit League presidents and committees to Sioux Falls for campus visits this month, forcing virtual tours and interviews instead.

"They've put together a lot of great information for our group to review. Fantastic video and everything they have on campus. So it's going really well as far as not being actually on their campus for some of our members. They feel that they've gotten a real good view and look at their campus and their information." Douple says.

Though evaluations continue, a decision appears imminent.

"It's the President's Council's decision and, I don't want to speak for them, but we're hoping that in the next couple of weeks we'll have some direction." Douple says.

If both schools are approved they would begin a four year transition period in which they would be ineligible for postseason. The earliest that could start is the 2021-22 season.

Douple says both Augustana and St. Thomas have remained committed to making the Division One transition regardless of the potential future impacts of the pandemic.