Two years ago, U.S. International Athletic Director Al Palmiotto surveyed available Division I independents to see if there was interest in forming a new athletic conference. Eight of the 13 schools he contacted replied.
On May 3, officials from prospective members will meet at USIU to discuss details of the proposal, giving Palmiotto a clearer idea of how close USIU is to reaching its goal.
In February, Palmiotto received commitments from Chicago State, Northeastern Illinois, Missouri-Kansas City and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. With recent interest shown by Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge, the possibility of assembling a conference of six teams--the minimum required by the NCAA--has taken another step forward. Southern Utah and Youngstown (Ohio) State are also considering membership.
Palmiotto said he hopes the meeting will settle several issues, including the appointment of a commissioner and the naming of a director of marketing and broadcasting.
"I hope to get a commitment from athletic directors and coaches," he said, "to resolve the sports, choose a date to venture forth and to put in our application (to the NCAA) and to get funding commitments for the application."
The conference would begin in 1991-92, although the Gulls already regularly schedule several of the interested schools. Palmiotto said the NCAA-minimum six sports would most likely include men's basketball, cross county, golf, tennis, soccer and baseball.
"Some of the schools have some more variables to look at," Palmiotto said, "but we think we have six sports, and that's what's important. And we're almost all aligned."
If those sports were chosen, Chicago State would have to add two sports, four other schools one.
Palmiotto originally had planned a private meeting with Dennis Keihn, Northeastern Illinois athletic director and someone with whom he has worked closely on the project. But Palmiotto opted for the joint meeting instead and said everybody but Wisconsin-Milwaukee will be there.
"We have some great cities in Chicago, L.A. and San Diego. Those are great markets," Palmiotto said. "One big thing, is we're looking at schools with great marketing ability in their areas, and TV is a key ingredient in those market areas."
Traveling long distances will still be a problem but one Palmiotto thinks will be minimal.
"I know a lot of people think we're all over the place," he said, "but the fact is, when you join a conference, 50% of your games are home already."
Because many of the schools are clustered in the same areas, Palmiotto said travel could actually improve.
"The athletes won't be away as much on a consistent basis," he said.