MISSOULA — Dickinson State University and the Frontier Conference have long seemed like a natural fit.
On Tuesday, they made their partnership official. The Frontier formally introduced the Blue Hawks as its seventh full member beginning in the fall of 2025. MTN Sports reported Monday Dickinson State was bound for the Frontier Conference.
“This past Thursday, the Frontier Conference council of presidents met and voted unanimously to approve Dickinson State joining the Frontier Conference as a full-member institution," said Carroll College president John Cech, who is also the chair of the Frontier Conference council of presidents.
"This is a historic moment for the Frontier Conference and for the NAIA. The Frontier Conference is one of the most competitive athletic conferences in the nation. And on behalf of the council of presidents, I am pleased to welcome Dickinson State University to our conference as a full member in 2025.”
"We think this is a really good fit for us," Dickinson State president Steven Easton said. "The Frontier Conference, as noted, is a very strong conference, both athletically and academically, and we’re excited to be rejoining the Frontier Conference.”
Dickinson State, located in Dickinson, N.D., will be the Frontier’s only full member located outside of Montana. Carroll College, Montana Tech, Montana Western, MSU-Northern, Providence and Rocky Mountain College are the current full members, while Arizona Christian, the College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon are affiliate members which compete in football only.
DSU, which will continue to compete in the North Star Athletic Association through the 2024-25 academic year, will compete in the Frontier in football and volleyball, as well as men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, track and field and golf. The Blue Hawks will also continue to compete in softball, baseball, competitive cheer and men’s and women’s wrestling.
“We’ve had discussions, particularly with baseball and softball, which are two strong sports in our community and our university. We’re talking over 80 athletes in those two sports. So, we’ve had discussions with the NAIA and with the North Star and how we’re going to work that and how we’re going to transition eventually," said Pete Stanton, Dickinson State's director of athletics and head football coach.
“The hope would be we have some friends in Montana that would look to add some of those as well eventually because I think it could be a great thing for some of those schools as well. We have a lot of Montana athletes in those two sports at our university. We’re still working through that, but that was one of the big things in this whole process, is making sure we have a home and have a transition for those two sports, especially.”
While Dickinson State continues to look for answers to the baseball and softball questions, the Blue Hawks will be right at home in the Frontier-sponsored sports. They already play may teams from Montana in those sports and feature a number of coaches and student-athletes who hail from the Treasure State.
“It’s a good deal for all of our programs. I know we’ll have a lot of our student-athletes excited about (playing in Montana)," said Stanton, himself a Baker native. "Coach (Derek) Selvig is our head (men’s) basketball coach and a Glendive native, and coach (Thadd) O’Donnell is our golf coach and chair of our (physical education) and kinesiology department, and coach (Shayne) Wittkopp leads our cross country and track teams, plus several other coaches that are assistant coaches with the Montana roots, and obviously we have a lot of Montana athletes on all of our teams.
“I know our student-athletes will be excited about that. They’re excited every time they can go back and compete in front of their family and friends. It’s a good fit for our student-athletes and for our coaches and, really, for our recruiting landscape.”
And it’s possible Dickinson State will continue competing against North Star members, as the Frontier is hopeful Dickinson State’s addition is just the tip of the iceberg.
“I think we’ve been very bold and very frank and very warm at the same time with the remaining North Star schools that we are very interested in being a solid landing space for them and how that would benefit them, how it would benefit the Frontier, as well," said Frontier Conference commissioner Scott Crawford.
"That vision that I’ve shared ... about sport expansion really is contingent upon getting as many of the North Star schools that would join us. I’m hopeful that we will see additional schools and potentially some schools that are at the junior college level right now that have or will be applying for NAIA membership who would also be a solid fit for the Frontier Conference.
"There have been extensive talks and the fruit of those talks is what you’re seeing (Tuesday), and there’s other fruit to be gathered, and we look forward to that.”