April 16, 2009

SLIAC drops football again, UMAC absorbs 5

The UMAC's Dome Day will get a lot busier again in 2009.
D3sports.com file photo

The Upper Midwest Athletic Conference announces the expansion of membership as five institutions have accepted an invitation to join the league as associate members participating in football only. Eureka, Greenville, MacMurray, Principia and Westminster (Mo.) will join the UMAC beginning with the 2009 season. The SLIAC, which only reinstated football in 2008, drops the sport for the second time in a decade.

The five institutions, which all remain full members of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will join the existing five football members of the UMAC (St. Scholastica, Crown, Martin Luther, Northwestern (Minn.) and Minnesota-Morris) to form a 10-team football conference. Principia announced in January the suspension of their football program for the 2009 season with the intention of reinstating the program in the future. Associate SLIAC members Huntingdon and LaGrange are not included.

The UMAC expects to receive an automatic bid to the playoffs beginning in 2011 after the mandatory two-year waiting period is completed.

"This was a very tough decision for our administrators because of the excitement that surrounded our institutions and the conference as a whole when football returned to the SLIAC last season as well as the great relationship being built with our affiliate members, Huntingdon and LaGrange," SLIAC Commissioner William J. Wolper said. 

"There were three primary reasons we brought football back in 2008 -– to provide our schools a significant portion of their playing schedule through conference competition; to provide football student-athletes the opportunity to compete under the same moniker as other student-athletes at their institution; and to provide the student-athletes an opportunity to compete for an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs.

"Unfortunately, with the loss of two football programs this offseason, two of those three reasons were no longer available ... Therefore, for the same reasons we brought football back to the conference, we are removing it from sponsorship allowing those schools to seek alternative affiliations."

Corey Borchardt, Commissioner of the UMAC, said, “We are excited to add these institutions to the UMAC as associate members first and foremost because they share a similar mission and vision as well as exhibit values that also concur with our full membership. Furthermore, the addition of the associate members will provide greater stability in scheduling with the additional conference contests and enhance the conference identity as a whole." 

A playing schedule among the six formerly SLIAC football programs was to remain in place for 2009. However, in light of the announcement by Colorado College of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference that it would be dropping football, and given Huntingdon's location to several SCAC institutions, Huntingdon requested to drop games vs. SLIAC schools as it felt now was the best opportunity to get into multi-year agreements with SCAC members. Schools affected by Huntingdon's request (Eureka and MacMurray) have filled those open dates. 

Two of the UMAC's new institutions are very familiar with the league, as Principia and Westminster (Mo.) were both UMAC football members from 2002 to 2007. Westminster won the UMAC championship in 2003 and 2004.

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