Frontier Conference announces major expansion for 2025-2026 season

May 22—DICKINSON — The Frontier Conference is set to undergo a significant expansion for the 2025-2026 season, welcoming four new institutions: Bellevue University, Dakota State University, Mayville State University, and Valley City State University. This decision was unanimously approved by the Frontier Conference Council of Presidents and announced on Tuesday, marking a transformative moment for the league.

The expansion will bring the Frontier Conference to 11 full-time members and 13 football-playing programs, including associate members. This development follows the integration of Dickinson State University into the conference, which was announced earlier.

Dr. John Cech, Chair of the Frontier Conference Council of Presidents and President of Carroll College, expressed his gratitude and optimism about the expansion.

"Today's press announcement marks an historic change for the Frontier Conference, establishing one of the most competitive and powerful athletic conferences in the NAIA," Cech said. "The real beneficiaries of today's expansion of the Frontier Conference will be our student-athletes."

Dr. Les Cook, Chair of the Frontier Conference Membership Committee and Chancellor of Montana Technological University, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the collaborative effort involved.

"We couldn't be more pleased to welcome these additional institutions to the Frontier Conference. Expanding the makeup of our conference along with increasing the number of institutions not only strengthens the conference but the quality and level of competition," Cook said. "It's a monumental day for all of us and an exciting one for the Frontier Conference."

The integration of Bellevue University, Dakota State University, Mayville State University, and Valley City State University is expected to bolster the league's competitiveness across various sports, including cross country, track and field, golf and volleyball. This strategic move aims to provide a robust platform for athletic programs, enabling them to compete at higher levels and gain more national recognition.

Pete Stanton, athletic director of Dickinson State University, highlighted the strategic benefits of the expansion for DSU.

"This is very good news. It will give Dickinson State a very stable league with our university in the middle, geographically," Stanton said. "It will also provide excellent opportunities for expanded and creative scheduling in all sports. This is a great day for Dickinson State University in many ways."

For the new member institutions, the move to the Frontier Conference presents an opportunity to compete in a more diverse and competitive environment.

Bellevue University President Mary Hawkins noted, "Joining the Frontier Conference is a wise move for Bellevue University. It allows us to be part of a larger conference with an east-west division structure. Our focus is on providing our student-athletes with a great collegiate experience."

Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, President of Dakota State University, expressed enthusiasm about the timing of the move.

"This is a distinctive time for Dakota State University athletics. Moving to the Frontier Conference will provide our student-athletes with the chance to reach new heights in the competition arena as well as in the classroom," Griffiths said.

Dr. Brian Van Horn, President of Mayville State University, also conveyed excitement about the transition.

"Our coaches and student-athletes look forward to competing with familiar rivals, as well as some new ones. We thank the Frontier Conference and its officials for this opportunity," Van Horn said.

Valley City State University President Alan LaFave emphasized the preservation of traditional rivalries.

"Keeping the five NSAA schools together helps to preserve traditional rivalries for our students, alumni and fans. This move will enhance and elevate the experiences of our athletes and supporters," LaFave said.

Dr. Scott Crawford, Frontier Conference Commissioner, concluded the announcement by reflecting on the broader implications of the expansion.

"Today's announcement solidifies the future of the Frontier Conference through added strength in both institutional members and additional sport offerings to grow enrollments" Crawford said. "This announcement also sends a message of stability throughout the region regarding the future of the NAIA and the way NAIA members operate."

The expanded Frontier Conference is poised to make a significant impact on the national stage, with more teams and sports gaining automatic bids to the NAIA National Championships. This growth is expected to provide greater exposure and opportunities for student-athletes, enhancing their collegiate athletic experience.

The addition of these schools will also have logistical benefits, particularly in terms of travel and scheduling. With Dickinson State University centrally located within the conference's new geographic footprint, the league will be able to minimize travel distances and costs, allowing for more frequent and meaningful competition among member schools and could offer unique opportunities for Dickinson to play host to neutral competitions.