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Eastern Oregon University will be joining the Frontier Conference in football.

The Mountaineers received a unanimous vote of approval from the Council of Presidents at its fall meeting this month at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.

The Frontier Conference, a member of the NAIA Region I, is made up of six institutions from Montana (Carroll, Great Falls, Montana Tech, Montana-Western, MSU-Northern and Rocky Mountain), and one each from Idaho (Lewis-Clark State) and Utah (Westminster).

Only five of the eight teams, currently support football: Carroll, Montana Tech, MSU-Northern, Rocky Mountain and Montana-Western.

Eastern's participation in the conference will be phased in over the next three years.

"This has been a long process for EOU," said Eastern football coach Jim Fenwick. "I am excited about being part of the growth of our institution."

The 2004 season will be Fenwick's third as head coach of the Mountaineers. Prior to joining the Mountaineers, he was the offensive coordinator at New Mexico and was the head coach at California State University-Northridge.

"I want to thank the Frontier Conference leadership for its strong endorsement of our program," Fenwick said. "My staff and I are looking forward to the upcoming recruiting process and providing a great experience for our scholar athletes within the Frontier Conference and NAIA philosophy."

Eastern Oregon's membership will give the Frontier Conference six football teams and an automatic berth in the NAIA 16-team National Championship playoffs.

Since 1996 Eastern Oregon has been a dual member of the NAIA and the NCAA Division III.

The football team has been playing a NCAA III independent schedule since that time, mainly competing against Northwest Conference NCAA Division III opponents.

"Gaining membership in the Frontier Conference for football was a critical step in the strategic planning for intercollegiate athletics on our campus," said EOU Director of Athletics Rob Cashell.

"We look forward to a long and positive relationship with the Frontier Conference."

This past season EOU played the University of Montana-Western, Montana Tech and Carroll College.

Earlier this fall Dixie Lund, EOU's interim president, ended the athletic department's dual membership and chose the NAIA as its sole affiliation. The Mountaineers participate in the NAIA Cascade Conference for all other sports. The Cascade Conference does not sponsor football.

"I am very pleased with the outcome of the council of presidents' vote regarding our membership," said Lund.

"A conference home, with the caliber of competition like the Frontier in which our scholar-athletes in football can now participate, has only enhanced our decision for NAIA sole affiliation."

Here are preliminary timelines set for EOUs admission to the Frontier Conference:

2004: Eastern Oregon will not have a schedule within the conference due to contractual obligations of all conference members. However, Eastern Oregon will maintain its agreed dates with MSU-Northern, Rocky Mountain, and Montana-Western.

2005: Probationary Membership. The Mountaineers will have a limited conference schedule, also, due to contractual obligations. The team will not be eligible for the Frontier Conference championship. However, student-athletes will be eligible for All-Conference academic awards with the possibility of athletic Player of the Week and All-Conference awards.

2006: Full Membership. Round-Robin schedule (10 games).


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