GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The slogan read, “New Opportunity. Same North Dakota.”
On Thursday morning, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks made a big announcement that affected the future of athletics for the better. After being members of the Big Sky Conference, the Fighting Hawks are on the move.
North Dakota will become members of the Summit League at the start of the 2018-19 academic year, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference at the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy and Athletics Director Brian Faison announced the decision at a press conference on Thursday.
“This is an important move for UND Athletics, and for our fans,” said Kennedy, in a release posted on North Dakota’s website. “We have appreciated our time in the Big Sky Conference and we thank our friends in that conference for their hospitality and the opportunity to have competed against some excellent teams.”
“We look forward to competitions that are closer to home, which will allow our fans to attend more away games, and we look forward to hosting our long-time rivals and their fans in Grand Forks,” concluded Kennedy.
North Dakota received formal invitations this week from both conferences, concluding the processes that saw member institutions of the respective conferences vote to include North Dakota in their expansion plans. The Summit League sent their invite on Tuesday, while the Missouri Valley Football Conference sent theirs on Wednesday.
Football is the only program moving to the Missouri Valley Football Conference, and the change will come into effect at the start of the 2020-21 academic year.
The move to The Summit League welcomes rivalry games back to the state of North Dakota.
Earlier this season, the Fighting Hawks’ men’s basketball program announced a multi-year home-and-home series with the North Dakota State Bison. Now, with the teams being in-conference rivals following the completion of the non-conference series, the excitement levels will only continue to grow.
Fighting Hawks’ head coach Brian Jones was excited about the move, and had this to say about the future of the men’s basketball program.
“Moving to The Summit League brings our natural rivals back, which I think will energize our fan base. They will be able to get to some road games and easily get to Sioux Falls for the conference tournament. It’s also bittersweet because we will always be grateful to the Big Sky and the opportunity it provided for us to grow as a Division I institution.”
North Dakota currently sits at 12-7 on the year overall, and 7-2 in conference play, following their 91-89 win over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Thursday night to cap off an exciting day for North Dakota fans everywhere.
With the move, The Summit League is now up to an even 10 institutions, while the Missouri Valley Football Conference now has 11 programs.
The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles were the last program to make the move to The Summit League, rejoining the conference back on July 1st, 2014.
– T. Bennett