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Published July 03, 2012, 09:52 AM

Shifting Summit League poses challenges for members

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Conference re-alignement in college sports is always changing; we're hearing about a different school switching leagues every day it seems. The Summit League has been directly affected with 3 teams leaving in the last two years, putting NDSU on the spot to try and adjust.

By: Dom Izzo, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Conference re-alignement in college sports is always changing; we're hearing about a different school switching leagues every day it seems. The Summit League has been directly affected with 3 teams leaving in the last two years, putting NDSU on the spot to try and adjust.

Saul Phillips – 6th Year Head Coach NDSU Basketball: “It honestly helps our chances short term at getting into the NCAA Tournament. Long-term, if we want to make sure this league continues to grow it behooves us to worry about ourselves and get better ourselves.”

It's going to be hard for NDSU to get much better after capturing the Commissioner's Cup last month, going to the school that performs the best in all conference sports. The new challenge is to keep the Summit League in the national spotlight, especially with perennial powerhouse Oral Roberts leaving.

Saul Phillips: “It's on us as programs in the league to make sure that we maintain the level we're at. I think we will be significantly better than we were last year, and that makes the league a little closer to the way it was. OK, Oral Roberts is leaving, it’s left someone to step up and take their place. We're all gunning for it. Short term you could say it’s going to take a hit RPI-wise. There’s no reason that a couple of our programs that exist in the league already can’t become more like that. As far as being concerned, we talk about how great Oral Roberts was – wonderful. We were a one big league with them, we’ll be a one bid league without them.

Gene Taylor – NDSU Athletic Director: “I think yes, we lose and Oral Roberts, which is a strong institution, a strong competitor, but I think we’re going to gain more when you see Omaha and South Dakota really begin to improve their programs. I think we'll continue to get stronger.”

The league looks significantly different now with a majority of the schools located in the Midwest with the addition of South Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha. The biggest threat now is Oakland may leave for the Horizon League, a conference based in Michigan and Ohio.

Saul Phillips: “If Oakland decides that this isn’t the way they want to be we'll be fine without them. I’d just as soon have them in because it’s been a lot of fun playing them, but we’ll survive either way. You can’t be too short-sighted when you’re trying to manage the future of your league.”

It's impossible to predict conference re-alignment, but Phillips believes NDSU isn't going anywhere.

Saul Phillips: “I would say ten years from now we're a prominent, proud member of a resurgent Summit League, a nationally recognized Summit League that gets multiple bids.”

As of now, Oakland is committed to stay in the Summit for the upcoming school year.

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