116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - The three-year process to find a new conference home for the Mount Mercy athletics teams is coming to a close.
The questions to be answered are whether the Mustangs will play in the Heart of America or North Star Conference, and will membership entail adding football to the athletics program?
Mount Mercy Director of Athletics Scot Reisinger said the Mustangs should know by mid-April whether they have been admitted to either conference. He said the Heart of America - with a majority of schools in Missouri - requires members to field football teams. The North Star - based in the Dakotas - sponsors football, but it is not required.
Reisinger said Mount Mercy has kicked around the idea of fielding a football team, but has not held any serious discussions.
'It was more along the lines of ‘it would be nice if ...'” he said. 'There has been no formal proposal or request for proposal.
'(But) with the Terex land and the development of the Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex, it gives us the opportunity to give it some thought.”
The university is in the fundraising process to rehabilitate the 22-acre former Terex plant site at 17th Street NE. The complex will have fields for baseball, softball and soccer, and a running track for track and field.
And, maybe, football fields.
From a travel standpoint, Mount Mercy would prefer to be in the Heart of America, which will have three Iowa schools as members starting in the fall of 2015. Graceland, located in Lamoni, has been a long-time member. Grand View and William Penn, former colleagues of Mount Mercy in the Midwest Collegiate Conference, become members this fall. That will bring Heart of America membership to 12 schools, with six in Missouri, three in Kansas and one in Nebraska.
Waldorf is a football only member of the North Star. The other six full members are in North and South Dakota.
The vetting process by both conferences is nearly complete. Reisinger said both have sent representatives to Mount Mercy for site reports and financial reports have been submitted.
'In general, they both want institutions that are strong not only athletically, but also academically,” he said. 'They are looking at facilities. They want to know you are in compliance with NAIA regulations and won't embarrass the conference at a later date. And they want to see how you fit within the geographic footprint of the conference.”
Mount Mercy began looking for a possible new conference three years ago when the Midwest Collegiate Conference removed Ashford and Waldorf, which had switched to for-profit status. That trimmed the league to eight.
Soon after Iowa Wesleyan switched its affiliation from NAIA to NCAA Division III. That put the MCC precariously close to the six members necessary to qualify for automatic berths to NAIA championships.
'There was a nervousness and people started looking around,” Reisinger said. 'Grand View and William Penn applied to the Heart of America and were admitted with two-year notice and that dropped us to five.”
And the search for a new conference took on some urgency.
MCC members Mount Mercy, Clarke, Viterbo and St. Ambrose applied for admittance to the Chicagoland Collegiate Conference last year. St. Ambrose was admitted. Mount Mercy, Clarke and Viterbo each fell a vote shy of admittance.
AIB will dropp its athletics programs, effective the end of the school year, after it was announced in January the school was being purchased by the University of Iowa to become a Regional Regents Center.
Clarke, which recently announced it was adding football in 2018, still is looking for a new conference home. It also has applied to the Heart of America and North Star.
Clarke Director of Athletics Curt Long, a former Mount Mercy baseball coach, said he believes the Mustangs and Crusaders would be attractive together to either conference.
'Both conferences are football conferences, so that will help us,” he said. 'Mount Mercy has a decision to make.”
For now, Reisinger said he is scheduling for next season as if Mount Mercy will play as an independent.
'April is late to be able to adjust schedules,” he said.
As an independent, Mount Mercy would fall into the Association of Independent Institutions, which numbers 25 schools this year, including Ashford.
'We would still have access to NAIA championships,” Reisinger said. 'But it's something you don't want to be doing long-term.”