SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- In approving a strategic vision plan looking ahead to 2030, Augustana University said Thursday night, Dec. 13, that Division I athletics will be in its future.
The decision came after Augustana’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve its strategic plan for the future of the private institution in central Sioux Falls. A university statement said transitioning to a Division I intercollegiate athletics conference would be among the school’s goals for the next decade, along with growing enrollment, campus investments and expanding the performing and visual arts. No specific timeline for the move was announced Thursday.
“For decades, Augustana has prepared students to be leaders who explore, create, and discover what’s possible,” said Augustana Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Davis. “As we look forward to the year 2030, the university must dream big, be dynamic and adapt to change. We enthusiastically endorse the vision the president and her team have put forward.”
Schools going to Division I must go through a four-year NCAA transition period and must be accepted to a conference before they start to make the formal reclassification. The consensus belief is that Augustana would join the Summit League, which is the home to the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University’s sports teams, and relocated its conference offices to Sioux Falls earlier this year. The Summit League does not offer football, meaning Augustana would have to find another league to partner with to move its football program to the Football Championship Subdivision of Division I.
The Summit League also sponsors championships in 19 sports, but not Augustana offerings football, wrestling or cheer and dance.
Currently, the Vikings have 19 varsity sports in Division II as members of the 16-school Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The NSIC released a statement of its own on Thursday night, in which the conference said it wished Augustana well. Chair of the NSIC Board of Directors Steve Shirley of Minot State also said the conference “is in the midst of developing a new five-year strategic plan that will guide the NSIC as we move forward as the preeminent conference and best home for student-athletes in all of NCAA Division II Athletics.”
If Augustana does go to Division I, it will be the third school in South Dakota to join the classification. SDSU joined Division I in 2004, followed by USD in 2008. All three schools are former members of the North Central Conference, which was a dominant group of schools in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska. North Dakota and North Dakota State were also former members of the NCC.
Augustana, a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, has 2,100 students. The Vikings won the 2016 NCAA Division II men’s basketball championship, followed by the national championship in baseball in 2018.
The university opened a new football stadium -- Kirkeby-Over Stadium -- in 2009, and splits its basketball games between the on-campus Elmen Center and the Sioux Falls Arena, which has hosted basketball doubleheaders since 2014.