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South Dakota to announce Summit League acceptance today

The University of South Dakota is joining the Summit League.

The school is holding a press conference today in Vermillion to announce its athletic programs will join the 10-school Summit League beginning in 2011.

South Dakota has been UND's main rival in recent years, as both are members of the Great West Conference for football and several other sports.

So the Sioux are concerned about the Coyotes leaving the Great West after the 2010-11 season. UND would like to be considered for the Summit League as well, but the conference has told the school it must resolve its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo issue before it is considered.

"Obviously it makes it even more problematic in terms of our league affiliation," UND athletic director Brian Faison said. "We'll have lost an important part of that conference."

On Tuesday, the Summit's Presidents Council voted unanimously to invite the school into the conference beginning July 1, 2011, according to an e-mail sent to Summit League member schools. USD will not compete in team tournaments that season, the last that the Coyotes are ineligible for NCAA postseason competitions.

In 2012-13 USD will be an active member of NCAA Division I and will participate in Summit League tournaments.

USD announced it would lift its athletic programs from NCAA Division II to Division I in 2006 and is now competing as a Division I independent. UND is in the same situation.

USD and South Dakota State, a member of the Summit League, will resume head-to-head competitions in sports other than football by fall 2011. The in-state rivals have not competed against each other in most sports since SDSU left Division II after the 2003-04 season.

The same is true for North Dakota State, a member of the Summit League, and UND.

So South Dakota's good fortune means UND's ability to resolve the nickname and logo issue quickly has heightened.

"From my perspective, it's been urgent all along," Faison said. "It isn't any less urgent. There's a new committee and they're in the process of going through their work.

"But again that's a time line that we don't really control. All we can do is encourage that they go as quickly as they can, and I'm sure they are."

Faison said the nickname and logo issue has affected many UND programs. The University of Minnesota, for instance, won't play UND in sports hosted by the school.

Faison said the Sioux might have been able to get the Gophers on the schedule for football, if the issue had been resolved.

The Gophers play South Dakota State this year, South Dakota in 2010 and NDSU in 2011.

Minnesota plans to play at least one BCS opponent every year while also committing to play Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) opponents from the region.

"If we would have had things resolved, I think we could have been in the mix," Faison said.

It's hurting other programs, too. They can't get games or competitions against Minnesota. It means fewer opportunities to compete close to home, Faison said.

"At this point we need to get the nickname and logo issue resolved so we can move on," he said.

Though the Sioux are in the Great West, it is keeping in eye on the Division I landscape.

"Clearly down the road we have to look out for the best opportunities for us as far as a conference," Faison said. "Whether it's where we're at or where we need to go."