SOU considers future of athletics department

A task force charged with investigating a slew of options for Southern Oregon University's athletics department, including applying for NCAA membership, is aiming to make a recommendation to the president by March 5.

The 11-person committee, which includes student-athletes, a student government representative and SOU administrators, among others, has been gathering information and meeting once a week since Oct. 23. Several crucial interviews remain, including this week's get-together with Cascade Conference Commissioner Dave Haglund and next week's meeting with Great Northwest Athletic Conference Commissioner Richard Hannan. The task force will also meet with NAIA Vice President for Championships and Human Resources Lori Thomas.

"Everything's on the table, and that's the only way to really go about this, with an open mind," SOU interim athletic director Matt Sayre said. "Even the presenters are very realistic. And what's nice about this task force is that everybody is open-minded and just coming in with the facts. Nobody has any preconceived notions."

The school's options can be broken down into two categories: those that favor applying for NCAA Division II membership, and those that do not. The school currently competes in the NAIA, with most of its programs (10 of 12) affiliated with the Cascade Conference. SOU's football and wrestling programs do not belong to a conference.

After the task force makes its recommendation, SOU President Mary Cullinan will have the final say. If Cullinan opts to go the NCAA route, SOU will most likely try to join the GNAC, a conference made up of schools from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, Montana and British Columbia, Canada.

"It's a dynamite conference, but it does have some pretty high costs associated with travel," Sayre said.

Currently, SOU's longest conference road trip is the 700-mile trek from Ashland to Caldwell, Idaho, home of The College of Idaho.

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