Augustana moving to NCAA Division I

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Augustana University announced Thursday night that it will be moving its athletic program up to NCAA Division I.

On Friday, KSFY Sports spoke with the Vikings' athletic director and longtime coach about the big move.

Augustana Athletic Director Josh Morton said the move to DI athletics is part of something much bigger for the school.

"It's exciting because it's part of a whole overall vision for the university, for us to play our part to help elevate Augustana, that's why the board approved the whole thing," he said.

The Vikings will learn from those South Dakota schools -- SDSU and USD -- who went before them in the move from DII to DI. There is a difference however -- the Jackrabbits and Coyotes were much larger, state-funded schools, unlike Augie.

"We're a small, private school, our advantage is that we're in Sioux Falls and for us that's a blessing to be in this community where we think can support a Division I school," Morton said.

"We're in one of the most vibrant, growing economies and communities in the country, and it's something you have to take advantage of," men's basketball coach Tom Billeter said.

The Vikings plan to move all of their sports to DI, and they need a conference invite where they will likely join the Summit League for most of their sports.

"Our working goal for our department is to say by December of 2020 we've secured a conference invite, within the next two years," Morton said.

The future model for football is also a question right now -- go FCS non-scholarship or full scholarship like the Coyotes and Jacks.

"Football is big part of our campus, so for us it's trying to decide which league fits best, again going back to who we are, and which of those two options -- either scholarship or non-scholarship -- fits the best,"

There will be challenges with the move up, Augie will not be NCAA tournament eligible for 4 years.

Once they are in DI...

"This is an opportunity that's come our way, and we're going to just work our tails off and be as competitive as soon as we possibly can, and don't think that we don't know that there's going to be some tough times, there's going to be some rough times," Billeter said.

"This isn't flipping a light switch and all of a sudden you're Division 1," Morton said. "It's really, it's a process. It's putting our plan in place, getting our committee together so we can formulate a plan."

The Augustana wrestling program will also need to find a conference.

After this year the Vikings will continue to compete in the Northern Sun Conference for at least the next two years.