North Star worthless to seven ‘other’ sports

On Feb. 18 the NIU women’s athletic department joined the North Star Conference.

Everybody in the program was happy. The women were in the same league with Notre Dame, Marquette, and DePaul. Since then nine months have passed and what has NIU gained from the move?


I know it’s early to be judging the success of NIU’s joining the NSC, and I know NIU joined the conference with the future in mind, but it has become obvious to me that the move could only really help one group in the women’s athletic department—the basketball team.

Three other sports seem to have been thrown into the NSC to make the NIU women’s program appear as if it were joining an entire conference. In reality, the seven other women’s sports at NIU have been basically unaffected by the change. I think the NIU coaches would admit that because of the following:

The women’s tennis team did compete in the NSC tournament, but that was something it already did as an independent.

The volleyball team will play its fourth conference game tonight and then will participate in this weekend’s league tournament. However, the conference’s competition in that sport is nothing beyond mediocre.

The NIU softball team only gets to participate in the annual NSC tournament. There is no regular season conference play.

The gymastics, field hockey, golf, and swimming and diving teams are left out as independents because the conference does not offer championship events in those sports.

NIU joined the North Star for one reason—to improve its basketball program. That’s a fact. Anyone who says the Huskies joined the conference for softball, tennis, or volleyball is kidding himself.

With basketball season about to begin, we should see if the conference affiliation was a good move by NIU. Even in that sport, the NSC has some drawbacks.

One negative is that the league does not own an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. This means the Huskies could tear up in the games against NSC teams and still only make the NCAAs for their overall record—as would an independent.

Another drawback is that, other than DePaul, the teams in the NSC are really not that strong, although NIU and Notre Dame look decent.

John LaTourette and Susie Pembroke-Jones said they wanted NIU to join the North Star because it was made up of quality academic institutions, because it would help build local rivalries and because it would help make scheduling easier. However, the latter two points can only be said for basketball and maybe volleyball. After all, the tournaments in softball and tennis won’t start rivalries and these tournaments only help in the scheduling of about three events.

Sure, NIU now is affiliated with some prestigious institutions That’s a plus. But athletically, the North Star is about the same as the Mid-American Conference which NIU left. And remember the MAC gives an NCAA berth.

I don’t think NIU has gained much from its membership in the North Star Conference other than the right to say it is in the same conference as the Fighting Irish and the Blue Demons.

Hopefully, the future will prove me wrong.