VALLEY CITY, ND  (  The last few weeks have seen movement on the athletic affiliation question at Valley City State and Mayville State, as the schools dive deeper into their best options.

Mayville State made a move with the NCAA, and Valley City State will be appraised by a consultant Thursday.

The February 26th meeting of the NCAA Division III Membership Committee approved Mayville State for an exploratory year for Division III membership.  The move is one step in the process of deciding if NCAA membership is feasible at Mayville State, at either the Division III or II level.

Rocky Larson, Mayville State Athletic Director, says no invite has been sent to Mayville State, but there have been conversations with the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, a Division III league based in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Schools include Bethany Lutheran (Mankato, MN), Crown College (St. Bonifacius, MN) Martin Luther College (New Ulm, MN), the University of Minnesota-Morris, North Central University (Minneapolis), Northland College (Ashland, WI), University of Northwestern-St. Paul, and University of Wisconsin-Superior.

“The exploratory year allows us to look at our processes and our model, and see if we fit as an NCAA school,” said Larson of the move.  “We’d receive information on our fit as both a Division III and Division II school.”

Larson, who oversees a department with a team in the Sweet 16 of NAIA womens basketball, says he’s had conversations this week with the NAIA as well, and has more planned.  He says membership in the Frontier Conference is still on the table, as well as finding a fit as an NAIA school as an affiliate member of a different conference, something he says Mayville State “would like to avoid if at all possible.”

“The concern with the Frontier is that they do not offer baseball and softball.  We have 60 baseball athletes and 30 softball athletes, and we need to find a home for them,” Larson said, adding that there have been “discussions” about the Frontier adding baseball, but nothing concrete.

Travel is a major concern in the Frontier Conference, a conference Dickinson State has already agreed to join.  The conference extends from Dickinson, ND, at least in the future, to Oregon and Arizona.

Valley City State, meanwhile, is exploring it’s NCAA viability in two different ways.

The latest will be Thursday, when a consultant comes to campus to pour over how VCSU operates with it’s processes, model, leadership, and facilities.  The process is meant to rank VCSU in it’s NCAA fit, and point out areas that need to be improved or added to be a successful applicant to the NCAA.

Dennis McCulloch, Athletic Director at Valley City State, says the Division II option is driving that move, as well as utilizing the expertise of former VCSU Athletic Director, Doug Peters, who moved to be the AD at Minnesota State University-Moorhead after his stay in Valley City.

“Doug can get access to NSIC leadership with his experience, and also knows Valley City State well,” McCulloch said Wednesday.  He can help us get information we need during the process of deciding what we can do.”

McCulloch says the consultant is necessary to clear up what has been an ongoing conversation about what the future possibilities are.

“Ten years ago, we’d just blow over the question, saying there’s no way we can afford to make the move to Division II.  But we never really got the answers.  We may be able to afford it, but we need someone to show is, in real terms, what it costs and what we have to do, so we can decide what our direction is,” said McCulloch.

McCulloch added that, if the report is negative, it may be the end of the process of exploring Division II affiliation, and move the Vikings in another path.  The UMAC has reached out to VCSU for possible membership, and the Frontier Conference desires as many members as possible to add automatic qualifiers to it’s playoff participation.

Valley City State released it’s football schedule for 2024 this week.  Both Augsburg, a Division III member of the Midwest Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Minot State, a current Division II member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) appear as non-conference games.

Both Valley City State and Mayville State have one year remaining in the North Star Athletic Association, the current NAIA league, which will disband after this year due to the loss of members Presentation College, in Aberdeen SD, and Iowa Wesleyan, in Mount Pleasant, IA, due to closure.  Waldorf University, in Forest City, IA, has decided to move to the Great Plains Athletic Conference, an NAIA conference reserved for faith-based, private colleges.

Questions have been asked about affiliate membership, or full membership in the GPAC for schools in the NSAA affected by the league’s dissolution, without success.

“All I’ve heard is ‘No, no, no’,” Larson added about that possibility, adding that there are no solid opportunities to remain NAIA and in a league close to home.