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UND set to join new conference

UND's search for conference affiliation in its move to NCAA Division I athletics appears to be a short one. UND is expected to announce today that the school will be one of a handful of institutions that will band together and form the Great West...

UND's search for conference affiliation in its move to NCAA Division I athletics appears to be a short one.

UND is expected to announce today that the school will be one of a handful of institutions that will band together and form the Great West Conference -- a league that will contain six or more schools.

All of the schools that are expected to join the league are Division I independents.

The school has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. New UND President Robert Kelley, Sioux athletic director Brian Faison and selected coaches will be at the conference.

UND officials late Wednesday wouldn't discuss the conference, but they've been working with other schools to develop the new conference for the past few weeks.

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"It's an important next step for the program," Faison said, referring to today's news conference.

Originally, between six and nine schools were in the mix to form the Great West Conference.

It's expected that UND, South Dakota, Utah Valley State, Texas-Pan American, Houston Baptist and New Jersey Tech will form the corps of the league.

There is a handful of other Division I independents that may or may not be in the original Great West lineup. It's also possible more Division I independents will join the league at a later date.

It's expected that the majority of UND's athletic programs, with the exception of hockey, will participate in the Great West.

The Sioux football team already is in the Great West Football Conference, which includes South Dakota, UC-Davis, Cal Poly, South Dakota and Southern Utah.

The Great West is expected to be administered by Ed Grom, the Great West Football Conference commissioner. Grom also is an associate commissioner of The Summit League -- which UND and South Dakota both want to even-tually join.

Finding a conference was one of UND's main objectives in its move to Division I.

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Conference affiliation will help UND primarily in recruiting and scheduling. And it also will give student-athletes the opportunity to receive weekly and postseason honors.

Officials are hopeful that Great West Conference competition will begin with the 2009-10 school year.

UND has completed its exploratory year in its move to Division I. However, the Sioux won't be eligible for NCAA postseason play until the 2012-13 school year.

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