EOU SELECTS NAIA ATHLETIC AFFILIATION
Beginning with the fall 2004 sports season, student athletes at Eastern Oregon University will only be playing with one set of rules.
Dixie Lund, EOU's interim president, announced the university has selected the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for its sole athletic affiliation.
The school already participates in the Cascade Conference of the NAIA with most of its teams, including men's and women's basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, softball, cross country and track and field.
EOU will apply to the NAIA's Frontier Conference for participation in football because the Cascade Conference does not sponsor that sport.
EOU applied for membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Northwest Conference this fall for the second time in the past four years.
Lund recently received word that the conference, made up entirely of independent (private) colleges and universities including Linfield, Lewis and Clark in Portland and Whitworth, had elected not to change its conference constitution to include a public university.
Eastern has played NCAA Northwest Conference schools in its football schedule.
Other options for EOU included moving to NCAA Division III independent or NCAA Division II. Both were eliminated due to added financial considerations required for travel as an NCAA independent and for baseline scholarship support as an NCAA Division II.
"We have been working with the issue of dual affiliation with the NCAA Division III and NAIA since 1996," said Lund. "The main issue is that playing within the restrictions of dual affiliation does not afford our student athletes the best possible intercollegiate athletic experience we can offer."
Over the past several months, university leadership has been engaged in a complete review of athletic affiliations and met with students, faculty, alumni, foundation members, boosters and others, presenting the issues and asking for input before making a final decision.
"I just want to play by the same set of rules as the other schools in the Cascade Conference," said Trevor Exline, a senior captain on the EOU men's basketball team from Austin, Nev.
With dual affiliation, the Mountaineers were required to abide by NCAA rules for all teams, even though they were competing in an NAIA conference, and for NAIA championships. By moving to a single affiliation, EOU plans to offer its teams a more level playing field. Legislation governing the two different organizations often times conflicted with one another.
"It meant that our students were not able to practice at the same times as their counterparts, nor could we recruit in the same way or schedule games in the same way," said Sheldon Nord, vice president for student affairs.
"Moving to one affiliation allows not only the students and coaches to play with a consistent set of rules, but also our student affairs staff and others who work with these issues on a daily basis."
Although the NAIA allows scholarships, there is no requirement to do so. EOU has been successfully competing against NAIA teams without the benefit of scholarships for several years. One advantage the Mountaineers do have is that undergraduates at the university from outside Oregon do not have to pay out-of-state tuition.
"We're excited about this change for our students and Mountaineer athletics," said Lund. "A lot of people have spent a great deal of time and energy to ensure we looked at every facet of the issue, and we have. This will have a positive outcome on EOU."
EOU expects to hear from the Frontier Conference on football participation before the end of the year. Participation in the Cascade Conference will continue as scheduled for winter and spring sports.
On the Web:
For additional information on Mountaineer sports, log on to: www.eou.edu/athletics.