Sayre to remain SOU's interim AD, to examine possible move to NCAA and football dilemma

Matt Sayre likes his new job. As for Southern Oregon University, the feeling is apparently mutual.

Sayre will remain SOU's interim athletic director through May of 2010, he said recently. The school's former associate athletic director learned of the decision in December, less than a month after the departure of former AD Dennis Francois.

"It's a very good opportunity for me and gives us a chance to do some strategic evaluations of the athletic department before we search for a new athletic director," Sayre said.

Sayre took became SOU's interim athletic director after Francois took a job as associate athletic director for external affairs at Drake University on Dec. 1. Sayre is not sure if he will apply to become SOU's permanent AD when the school begins its search next year.

"That was part of the deal, to give me an opportunity to evaluate myself as well, see if I'm very good at it," he said. "I'm having fun right now. It's definitely a lot of hard work but it's good fun. It gives me a chance to try to solve some problems and organize the place a little bit, which I enjoy doing."

Chief among Sayre's concerns is SOU's potential move from NAIA to NCAA Division II.

"There's that affiliation question still out there, NCAA or NAIA, and we need to get everybody who has a stake in SOU athletics to give us feedback and figure out where we want to go, who we want to be in five years," Sayre said.

A move to NCAA will probably require a jump in scholarships in order for the Raiders to be competitive. Part of Sayre's evaluation will examine where that extra money could come from. Sayre said that he's looking forward to the challenge.

"We've never really gone through that strategic planning process in the athletics department," he said. "I've wanted to do this for a long time and now this presents a golden opportunity.

"For me as an AD, the first thing I want to look at is are we competitive now and can we be more competitive with a different affiliation."

Sayre will also take a close look at SOU football program, which has played as an NAIA independent since leaving the Columbia Football Association following the 1998 season. The lack of NAIA football programs in the region makes scheduling difficult for the Raiders, who last season played road games against Sacramento State, Montana Tech and South Dakota.

Though dropping the football program is an option, Sayre aims to find a solution that does not include the loss of SOU's most popular sport.

"The school is committed to football and so is the athletic department," he said. "We just have to find the right home for our football program."

One possible solution calls for an NCAA Division II football exemption, which would allow the other sports to continue their affiliation with the NAIA's Cascade Collegiate Conference. That would solve the SOU football team's yearly scheduling conundrum — the NCAA Division II Greater Northwest Athletic Conference consists of four regional football teams now that Western Washington has decided to drop its football program.

Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia are also reportedly looking to join the GNAC.

"The problem is, will the NCAA allow us to just have football in the GNAC or not?" Sayre said. "That's a possible solution. I don't know if that's realistic as far as what the NCAA would allow or for what we would be able to afford for SOU."

Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or

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