GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Summit League will begin evaluating the University of North Dakota for possible membership and could send officials for a campus visit by the end of the year.
The league had said it would not consider UND until the school resolved the dispute over its Fighting Sioux nickname, which some including the NCAA find offensive. The state Board of Higher Education has since directed UND to begin retiring the nickname.
League commissioner Tom Douple said school presidents are satisfied "that (UND) is headed in that direction."
UND, which just completed its second season in NCAA Division I, competes in the Great West Conference in most sports. That league does not advance an automatic qualifier to postseason tournaments.
The 10-member Summit League has automatic qualifying status and would reunite UND with former North Central Conference rivals North Dakota State, South Dakota State and South Dakota in some sports, including basketball.
"Obviously we're pleased to be a part of the process and to be considered for membership," athletic director Brian Faison said. "We're looking forward to providing the Summit League with the necessary information."
Douple said the evaluation is "a multistep process" and it is not clear when the school would begin competition if it is accepted. South Dakota, which was accepted into the league in April 2009, will begin play in the Summit in the 2011-12 school year.
"We have a whole list of profile questions we want to review ... how they're set up academically, what kind of support systems there are, fiscally how they're structured and how they plan to attack the future," Douple said.
The Summit League, formed in 1982 and formerly known as the Mid-Continent Conference, includes Centenary, IPFW, IUPUI, UMKC, NDSU, SDSU, Oakland, Oral Roberts, Southern Utah and Western Illinois. Centenary will be dropping out after the 2010-11 season, leaving South Dakota as the 10th member.
If UND is accepted, its hockey teams would continue to compete in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and the football team in the Great West. The Summit League does not sponsor football, though Douple said the league is exploring the possibility.
(This version recasts 9th graf to correct league numbers since Centenary is leaving Summit League.)