AMCU conference eyes NIU affiliation

By Jeff Kirik

The NIU athletic department has “indicated some interest” in becoming affiliated with Association of Mid-Continent Universities conference, league commissioner F.L. Ferzacca said Tuesday.

Ferzacca said he spoke with NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell and former Huskie AD Robert Brigham at January’s NCAA convention about the possibility of joining the conference.

NIU is looking for a conference—primarily for men’s basketball—but many possibilities are being explored, O’Dell said Tuesday.

O’Dell would not comment about the AMCU, but said he did speak with Ferzacca. “We talked and had a handshake and said ‘hi’—that’s all,” O’Dell said.

NIU left the Mid-American Conference in July 1986. Since that time, the men’s teams have competed as independents. The women’s program joined the North Star Conference last spring.

O’Dell said two advantages to being in a conference are an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament and the way it simplifies scheduling.

Presently working on the 1988 cage schedule, O’Dell said his department now will begin to actively analyze if joining a conference is a good move and will contact conferences to find the one most beneficial to the NIU program. He also said NIU is limited to the conferences it can join because of the size of its facility—Chick Evans Field House has a 6,076 capacity.

He said whatever move NIU made it would be one which was best for the university and the athletic department and “most important of all, what’s important for the athletes.”

The AMCU is an eight-school men’s conference which offers competition in basketball, baseball, swimming, tennis, golf, cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and soccer. The present eight members of the league are Cleveland State, Southwest Missouri State, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, Valparaiso, Illinois-Chicago and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

NCAA rules require a school to compete in four sports to be eligible to compete in a conference, Ferzacca said. Because NIU has basketball, swimming, golf, tennis and soccer programs, it would be eligible to compete in the AMCU without adding another sport.

Frezacca said the conference will discuss possible new affiliations at its May 2 meeting.

“We’re just going to discuss what’s best for the conference—if we need to add schools or stay where we’re at. If we need to add we’ll decide how many,” he said. “We have had other schools interested in affiliating with our conference.”

Akron, Youngstown State, and Wright State are the other teams who have shown interest in joining the league, Ferzacca said.

He said one the advantages NIU might have over the other schools when being considered at the AMCU meeting is its location.

The men’s basketball team went 2-5 in seven games against AMCU teams this season on their way to an 8-20 overall record.

“They would give the conference some more visibility in that area (Chicago),” Ferzacca said. “They’re a well established university right in the center of publicity.”

Representatives from the Missouri Valley Conference, the Mid-Cities Conference and the MAC, which NIU left, said recently NIU had not contacted them concerning affiliation.