The Frontier Conference is a fine concept. My only concern is that it’s never been quite large enough, though – granted – there are not many universities in the Northwest region. So, we’ve beefed up the conference and renamed it the Pacific Sun. The big news about ICFB’s Pac-Sun, and something you’ll notice when you look at the roster above, is the omission of Carroll. I realize the Saints have been Frontier members for a mighty long time, and are the signature program in the league. However, the more I looked at it (and believe me, I stared at it for a good long time), the more it seemed as though Carroll belonged in the Northwest Conference (see my capsule for the NWC in Division 6). I realize this may be a controversial move for some of you, and ask that you give it an opportunity to breathe. The Pac-Sun feels more like a conference for the Northwest directional schools and their ilk. So, to that end, we’ve got Central and Western Washington (the latter resurrected); Northern and Western Montana; Eastern, Western and Southern Oregon; Idaho College and Northern Idaho (L-C St); Montana Tech and Oregon Tech (the latter resurrected); and the Rocky Mountain Bears. This makes for a damn fine conference, and I – for one – am eager to see who wins the inaugural championship.
Prairie = KCAC. My vision for the Prairie Conference was for it to be inhabited exclusively by Kansas schools. Why so? Because there are that many NAIA Kansas schools, and they want to play on the same jungle gym. Nine schools currently are in both conferences, ie they converge between the NCAA and ICFB. Two of the divergences are easily solved. OK Wesleyan and York are not in Kansas; they are booted in favor of the return of Baker and Benedictine. Granted, the Wildcats left 40+ years ago and the Ravens bolted so long ago they were still known as St Benedict’s College. No matter, they’re both back in. Our coup de grace involves swapping out St Mary for St Mary. You did not fall down Alice’s rabbit hole (well, you might’ve, but not because of ICFB…and have a nice trip regardless). We’re replacing the University of St Mary with the resurrected St Mary of the Plains. You gotta love Kansas.
When I was a young man, around the time the Earth cooled, it positively baffled me that there was a North Dakota conference (NDCAC) and a South Dakota conference (SDIC), and they hadn’t thought to merge. Seriously, who’s in charge of these things? Somebody finally did think of it, because the merger happened in 2000, though only 10 of the schools migrated to the new Dakota Athletic Conference. All 10 of these schools, plus Sioux Falls and Huron (risen from the grave) comprise the aptly and cleverly named Northern Plains Athletic Conference, or NPAC. This is Ideal College Football’s contribution to Dakota peace, harmony and common sense…and one helluva kickass football conference.
We conclude our tour of Division 9 with the Central States Football League (CSFL). ICFB’s Central States only remotely resembles the one you may be accustomed to in the NAIA. Five current and three former members are present and accounted for, and that includes the recently-eliminated Haskell Indian Nations. You could’ve guessed that, right? Nothing stays dead around here. Speaking of dead, Paul Quinn has also arisen. We’re welcoming Harding and Incarnate Word into the league, and awarding a team to Oklahoma S&A. Hey, scientists and artists love football. And there is your new and improved Central States Football League.
Heart of America
Univ of St Mary KS
Much like the Dakota schools who are now united in the Northern Plains (see above), I have long envisioned a Kentucky/Tennessee conference that would unite the main NAIA schools of this region. A league of their own. Welcome to the Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference (TVAC). The closest NAIA analog is the Mid-South, where only six full members play football. Five of those schools are here (Georgetown, Campbellsville, both Cumberlands and Pikeville). Of the seven affiliate members, all of whom are on the gridiron, we only have two in the TVAC: Bethel and Union. How did we fill out the TVAC roster? Easy. Lambuth resuscitates their program, and expansion programs are instituted at Transylvania, Milligan, Trevecca and Berea. Don’t worry about the Mid-South schools that aren’t in the TVAC, they'll be making their presence felt in Division 10.
Northwestern College IA
Robert Morris IL
St Francis IL
St Francis IN
IDEAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Southwestern College KS
St Mary of the Plains
College of Idaho
Eastern Oregon State
Northern Idaho (Lewis-Clark St)
Northern Montana (MSU-Northern)
Southern Oregon State
Western Oregon State
There is an overflow of NAIA football schools in the Midwest (as mentioned above in the MSFA capsule), and it seemed as though one solution - probably the only viable solution – was to initiate a new conference. Nothing wrong with more conferences. Known as the Eastern Plains Athletic (EPAC), this new league covers Illinois/Iowa/Missouri, and harbors many universities who are part of the NCAA MSFA. Six, in fact (Olivet Nazarene, Trinity Intl, St Francis IL, Robt Morris IL, St Ambrose and Belleville); three others who are former members (McKendree, Grand View and Wm Penn). Henceforth, we will be referring to the EPAC as MSFA Lite. Just kidding. This is a conference that is going to take some time to define itself, to develop its own personality. And let’s not rule out some changes in membership prior to Season 2. Dropping more hints, it’s kinda our thing.
Look, I’ll admit it, the wealth of Midwestern NAIA schools is tough to sort into coherent conferences. I look at current conferences and attempt to reconcile them with the historical record, with the geography, with the expectations in my mind. Yes, constructing Ideal conferences is inherently a subjective enterprise, yet I’ve attempted to do so with the public in mind. How should these colleges and universities be arranged to provide for maximum enjoyment for the most people. Not everyone is going to agree with these conferences, and that’s okay. Complete uniformity is a drag. Let’s have some debate. It’s good for the blood. It is with that spirit that I present the Heart of America. ICFB’s Heart and the NAIA version have seven schools in common (Avila, Central Meth, Culver-Stockton, Evangel, Graceland, MNU and MoVal). Former members Lindenwood, Wm Jewell and Tarkio (rejuvenated) are present and accounted for. MoBap and Univ of St Mary complete the roster. This is a solid Heart of America. And to continue our new-found tradition of dropping hints and blowing minds and all that, there will be some membership changes for Season 2 that will throw the Heart into sharper relief.
Black Hills State
South Dakota Tech (SD Mines)
Valley City State
The Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) has been through a lot of changes since its inception in 1993. The kids went off to college, Grandma and Grandpa moved back in…..it’s been a real challenge. Thankfully, there has been football to take our minds off the family. Truth be told, there are a lot of NAIA schools in the Midwest, and membership in these conferences has been fluid. I expected to have a challenge putting these leagues together. You can imagine my shock and surprise that six of the charter members of the NAIA MSFA (Findlay, Malone, St Xavier, Taylor, Tiffin and Urbana) are also charter members of ICFB’s MSFA. Marian and St Francis IN are current members in both. So, eight schools that were charter or are current members of both MSFA’s. Very surprising. Walsh, another former member – yet not a charter member – is here, as well. We’re up to nine schools, and this is blowing my mind. New programs are being instituted at Cedarville and Goshen, filling out our inaugural roster of the MSFA. Inaugural, but not final. Dropping hints, blowing minds. It’s what we do at Ideal.
The Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) only took on its current name in 2000, although it has been lurking under different monikers since 1969. Membership has been fairly stable, though – like nearly all conferences – it has started getting wacky in the past couple of decades. Dakota Wesleyan has joined the NAIA GPAC, and you already know they’ve been returned to their Dakota brethren in the NPAC (see above). If you’ve been reading along this whole time (and I really hope you have, these capsules took a long time to put together), you can also guess that we’re bringing Dana back from the grave. The Vikings will ride again! Sail again? Nebraska Wesleyan is back in the fold, a no-brainer. Peru St has been added, as well. And just to go completely 80’s retro (no excuses are necessary to do that), we’re bringing back both Yankton and SD-Springfield from the deep freeze. Rock on, GPAC! Oh, and because a hint drop [drop hint? hint of droppings?] now seems mandatory for every conference, Northwestern College Iowa will be in the Great Plains for Season 2.
Copyright © Steven Sugarman