Mesa ready for new rival in Westminster
A new rival for Colorado Mesa could emerge from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s latest expansion.
Westminster College, currently an NAIA school in Salt Lake City, on Monday accepted the RMAC’s invitation to join the conference, pending its approval to move to NCAA Division II status.
Westminster must first be accepted by the NCAA and then begin a three-year transition period. If the NCAA accepts the Griffins, they could begin competition in the RMAC in the 2015-16 school year.
“This is really, really exciting and really good,” CMU Athletic Director Tom Spicer said Monday. “I can’t wait to get there. It gives us an opportunity for Colorado Mesa University to develop another rivalry that is basically a four-hour trip from here, to go into a new market and expose the conference.”
Westminster was in the RMAC from 1967-79. The college then dropped athletics, reinstating the program in 1999.
With 16 schools in the conference that will span five states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska and South Dakota — some sports, namely basketball and volleyball, will likely go back to divisional play. Instead of the traditional East-West split, conference athletic directors are contemplating North and South divisions.
“I think once this is all shook out, and there’s still a lot of discussion left to be made, but within specific sports there will be divisions, reconstituted to take care of travel concerns for the schools on the perimeter,” Spicer said. “Whether that’s North-South or East-West remains to be seen.”
Colorado Mesa could end up in the North Division, with Westminster as a travel partner.
“Logically Westminster and Colorado Mesa University would be talked about as traveling partners, but you also need to take a look at Fort Lewis being in that equation,” Spicer said. “There’s a lot of different ways to set this up.”
With Black Hills State and incoming member South Dakota School of Mines logical partners in South Dakota, Chadron State (Neb.) would again be paired with one of the Denver schools.
Four RMAC schools are in the Denver Metro area — Colorado School of Mines (Golden), Metro State, Regis University and Colorado Christian (Lakewood).
Two Denver schools could fill out the North, with one of them heading to the South Division.
Western State, Fort Lewis, Adams State, CSU-Pueblo, CU-Colorado Springs, New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico could round out the South Division.
Westminster has 14 varsity sports that are currently sponsored by the RMAC — men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, indoor and outdoor track, golf and soccer, plus women’s lacrosse and volleyball.
There’s talk of the Griffins adding men’s lacrosse, which would then make that sport eligible for RMAC championships. Currently, men’s lacrosse teams are members of the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association.
With the RMAC expanding to 16 schools, one thing is for certain — the conference athletic directors will have plenty to talk about and start planning during their meetings this spring and summer.
Currently, basketball has a 22-game conference schedule and Spicer doesn’t see that changing.
Each school would have 14 division games, playing home and away, and then play teams in the other division once.
If the divisions are North and South, Spicer likes the prospect of having his teams travel to the schools in New Mexico only once every other year.
If it’s East-West, trips to Nebraska and South Dakota would alternate years for the Mavs.
“It works,” Spicer said. “What it means is, we only have to go to the perimeter (schools) once every other year instead of every year. That’s a budgetary consideration, which is going to be appreciated.”