FARGO — The Summit League and Augustana University moved a step closer to a marriage with the Sioux Falls, S.D., school formally applying for league membership. How long the courtship takes, however, remains to be seen.
Summit commissioner Tom Douple said the league presidents will consider Augustana’s application at its annual meeting in May. But there are potential hurdles to get over like the school’s enrollment and alumni base.
Both are not big in comparison to the rest of the conference.
“It’s a small school in a small state with a small alumni base with a small endowment,” Douple said on Dom Izzo’s radio show on WDAY-AM. “They have to get over that and present some added value in a media market where both SDSU and USD dominate. What is the added value and they have to sell that to our presidents.”
Augustana’s enrollment is annually around 2,500 and its endowment stands at $90 million, according to KWSN radio in Sioux Falls. North Dakota State’s enrollment is just under 14,000 and its endowment is at about $250 million.
The University of South Dakota has an endowment of $260 million and North Dakota is at $280 million.
Augustana is located in Sioux Falls, S.D., while the state flagships are about an hour away. South Dakota State is in Brookings and USD is in Vermillion.
The school first declared it was exploring Division I status late in 2018. Not much has been said publicly since until Douple’s revelation this week.
The Summit has already accepted the University of St. Thomas of St. Paul as a member beginning in 2021-22, contingent on the Tommies getting a waiver of a reclassification from Division III to a reasonable number of years. Even that may not prevent St. Thomas from getting in.
“The presidents and chancellors have been adamant to me, we want them in and we’re going to stick with it,” Double said. “We believe they’ll be a great fit for us.”
If St. Thomas does join in 2021-22, the league will be at 10 teams joining NDSU, SDSU, USD, UND, Western Illinois, Missouri-Kansas City, Oral Roberts, Denver and Nebraska Omaha.