Jamestown making its pitch to join Northern Sun

Aug. 23—The University of Jamestown has shown interest in joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in the past, and the league has shown past interest in Jamestown.

But it seems a little different this time, according to Kevin Buisman, the director of athletics at Minnesota State.

"Jamestown certainly falls within the footprint of the NSIC, and they've been very proactive," Buisman said. "There's been a lot of good dialogue, and we've learned a lot about Jamestown. We'll see where it goes from here."

Buisman said that Jamestown, a four-year private college in North Dakota, made a presentation to the league this summer. It is now in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.

The Northern Sun is down to 15 members with Upper Iowa leaving after the last academic year. The Northern Sun has only 13 members that compete in football, forcing the league to incorporate nonconference games for the first time since expansion in 2008.

"I think everyone likes the idea of nonconference games for football, but it was pretty difficult on some programs," Buisman said. "It was a pretty costly endeavor for us to fill that date. We're grateful that (Western Oregon) is coming here, but it's an expensive trip and it's not completely on their dime."

Buisman said the Northern Sun has an expansion committee that studies aspects of adding or subtracting members. If the league is to expand, the committee takes into account the menu of sports, facilities and geography. He doesn't sense that the league has much interest in increasing travel within the league, which has members in Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

Jamestown offers 21 sports, including football. Jamestown also has men's and women's hockey at the club level. The university has made a strong commitment to athletics and has recently upgraded its outdoor and indoor facilities, with plans announced this summer to add a sports bubble.

Jamestown, North Dakota, is about 360 miles from Mankato, about double the trip to Upper Iowa in Fayette, Iowa, but not as far as Minot State (530) and Mary (460).

"I think (Jamestown) has the infrastructure to match some of the programs in the NSIC and exceed some of them," Buisman said. "Its enrollment would be one of the lowest but not outside the norm."

In 2022, Jamestown had an announced enrollment of 1,200.

Buisman said opinions on expansion vary greatly within the conference, and he's keeping an eye on Division I to see if anything can be learned from the latest round of conference expansion.

He doesn't believe in expansion for the sake of expansion, but he's interested in keeping the league near the top of Division II.

"Expansion opportunities are pretty limited within the footprint," he said. "There's a lot of Division III programs, but they seem perfectly content to stay where they're at.

"I'm a little more cautious about adding someone just to take Upper Iowa's spot at the table. I want to hear the arguments for expansion and contraction and see where that goes. It's been an interesting exercise, and it's a fluid situation."

Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.