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Monday, February 23, 2004
Updated: February 24, 3:54 AM ET
New conference to be announced Wednesday

Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. -- Officials at North Dakota State University and six other colleges are set to announce the creation of a new NCAA Division I-AA football league known as the Great West Football Conference.

An official at one of the schools said the new conference will include NDSU, South Dakota State, Southern Utah, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, California Davis, St. Mary's College (Calif.) and Northern Colorado.

Bison athletic director Gene Taylor on Monday declined to release specific details, saying some of those details still needed to be worked out.

"It would be a great thing," Taylor said. "This would give us a schedule and a league with a conference championship and individual honors."

Northern Colorado athletic director Jim Fallis and South Dakota State athletic director Fred Oien refused comment on the new league. Those schools, along with NDSU, have scheduled press conferences for Wednesday afternoon.

Next year will be NDSU's first season in Division I-AA. NCAA rules dictate that the Bison will not be eligible for the playoffs for five years. The Bison would play all six teams in the new league for the upcoming season, Taylor said.

The Bison currently have only two home games on the schedule, against Cal Poly and Northwestern State (La.). Southern Utah also has shown interest in coming to Fargo. Taylor said he wants a five-game home slate next fall that would include other Division I-AA opponents outside of the new league.

"If we can get some of the teams we're talking to, it will add some interest for our fans," Taylor said. "It seems like every time I mention a team by name, they back out, so I'm going to stop mentioning them."

The Bison still are interested in joining a conference with all sports, Taylor said. School officials have been lobbying the Big Sky Conference for at least the last two years.

"This new football league would be a step," Taylor said. "If the Big Sky were to come along or some other all-sports conference, that would be an option."

Member schools in the new league met in December in Las Vegas to discuss bylaws and scheduling. They met again last month at the NCAA convention in Nashville, Tenn., and had a conference call last week, Taylor said.

NDSU, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State and UC Davis are in the early stages of moving to Division I-AA. Cal Poly, St. Mary's and Southern Utah are independents.

Bison head football coach Craig Bohl did not return a phone message on Monday.