Who has the best interests of the student-athletes in mind when it comes to college athletics?
If recent history tells us anything, it’s certainly not university administrators.
From the NCAA Division I level on down to the NAIA, cash has proven itself to be king.
Whatever path serves to make a school more money is the one that institution will undoubtedly veer toward, regardless of whether or not it is the correct path. In June, we watched as TV rights — and the millions of dollars that flow into universities from them — changed the landscape of college athletics.
Decades-long rivalries imploded, schools went off the beaten path and one of college athletics’ greatest conferences nearly imploded all for the sake of a few extra million bucks in the pockets of those who sit in the ivory box seats.
We watched Colorado and Utah leave geographically and competitively advantageous leagues for the Pac-10, a historically great conference that hasn’t been all that great lately. But who cares, because the Pac-10 is soon going to hook itself one heck of a TV deal, and who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
We watched Nebraska turn up its nose at longtime rivals in the Big 12 and join the Big Ten. Why? Because of the Big Ten Network, the dollars that come with it, as well as the perceived advantages that come with competing in a conference that hasn’t had a national champion in football since 2002.
Unfortunately, the money train doesn’t stop at Division I.
Even in the little NAIA, where the biggest TV deal comes in the form of a 30-second spot on the local news, things are beginning to fall apart because of the almighty dollar.
Recently, many schools who have had strong histories and success in the NAIA are jumping ship for the so-called greener grasses of NCAA Division II.
At the Division II level, expenses increase and, as from what we’ve seen just down the interstate in the past five years, the rewards diminish.
University administrators nationwide who have made the jump say one of the major reasons they do so is because there is a better knowledge of the NCAA brand name than the NAIA.
Translation: We make more money this way.
It’s believed that — much like those former Division II schools that went Division I — once school move under the NCAA flag, booster donations are sure to increase and a higher quality of student-athlete and additional non-athlete students will take notice, driving up enrollment in the process.
While it’s true that being in Division II brings better competition, there is also the matter of knowing one’s place in the world.
Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines are two schools who just don’t seem to know their place — and they’re not alone.
Sometime this month, possibly as early as this week, it’s expected that the NCAA will approve the two South Dakota schools, both members of the Dakota Athletic Conference, to begin making the transition out of the NAIA and into Division II.
I hate to be harsh to either athletic program, because they’ve both had their share of success.
Recently, Black Hills State has been strong in all of its revenue sports, plus it has a strong history of winning programs and a booster club that doesn’t mind giving them the cash to make it happen.
However, in the decade it has been a member of the DAC, South Dakota Mines has never won a regular-season conference championship.
It doesn’t matter where Mines goes in Division II, or even that it has a plan in place to raise millions of dollars for its athletic program. If it can’t win a title in the DAC, it doesn’t stand a chance in Division II.
For an example, I only need to three words: University of Mary.
The Bismarck school appears to be doing just as well financially at the Division II level as it did at the NAIA.
It even inked a bigger radio deal and a weekly television show with the move. (Sound familiar?)
But, it appears its days of winning national championships and being at the top of its conference in every sport are over, or at least dormant.
I don’t know if Black Hills State wants that, but it’s probably not going to make a big difference to South Dakota Mines.
Monke is the Sports Editor of The Dickinson Press. E-mail him at and read his blog at .