South Dakota Mines joins RMAC
Without a game being played, there’s already a bit of a squabble brewing with the addition of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Which school will be called Mines?
After all, Colorado School of Mines is a charter member of the conference, which was founded in 1909.
“During the process the last few weeks there have been some humorous discussions about who gets to keep the reference ‘Mines’ in the league,” RMAC Commissioner Chris Graham told The Daily Sentinel on Monday. “Out of fairness, (Colorado Mines) deserves consideration since they were first.”
The RMAC Presidents Council unanimously voted last week during the NCAA Convention to add South Dakota Mines to the conference, bringing the membership to 15.
When asked if that is an awkward number for a conference, Graham said a 16th school could be only weeks away from joining the conference that spans from South Dakota to New Mexico.
“What I can say is an invitation has been extended to another institution and I hope in the coming weeks we’ll have an announcement, but that’s all I can say,” Graham said.
Adding South Dakota Mines, Graham said, was a good fit at the right time. Football and men’s soccer are members of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, but all other sports are independent.
The Rapid City, S.D., school has an enrollment of 2,640 and sponsors 13 sports — football, men’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field. The NCAA considers indoor and outdoor track separate sports.
South Dakota Mines officially joins the RMAC on July 1, with individual sports (golf, track, cross country) immediately eligible for conference championships. The Hardrockers will be phased into team schedules, with the first full year of conference scheduling the 2015-16 academic year.
For the Hardrockers, joining the RMAC means an end to being the only independent school in Division II.
“For Rapid City, it means more home games,” South Dakota Mines President Heather Wilson said Monday during a press conference. “We have a lot of away games this year.
“It means conference championships and eligibility for postseason play for our scholar-athletes. It means certainty for our coaches and not try to scramble to fill a schedule as an independent.”
Most schedules have been set for next year, especially in football, and South Dakota Mines will honor a two-year commitment with the GNAC in football and soccer, Graham said.
The number of football schools in the conference will grow to 11, so once the Hardrockers are on the schedule, teams will only have to schedule one nonconference game.
Having a second South Dakota school in the conference will make the trip north a little easier. Black Hills State, which joined the RMAC in 2012, is in Spearfish, roughly 50 miles northwest of Rapid City.
Rapid City is 635 miles from Grand Junction, one of five conference locations 500 or more miles away from Colorado Mesa University. Mesa’s shortest trip is to Western State in Gunnison, 128 miles away.
Graham said several options for scheduling will be considered with the expanding conference.
“We have geographic diversity and some long trips, but there is strength in numbers,” Graham said of the scheduling issues teams face. “Games (in a large conference) are guaranteed for you and that makes a big difference in the budget.”