As one era comes to an end, a new era is about to begin. On Sept. 24 UNK officially accepted the invitation from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) to join its conference starting in the 2012-2013 academic year.
After a long process of figuring out whether or not the MIAA was a good fit for the Lopers, we finally have our answer.
“Joining the MIAA is a great opportunity to enhance the welfare of our student-athletes, increase our engagement with the community and bring excitement to the UNK campus,” said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. "The fit between UNK and the MIAA is natural, because the member schools have similar missions, values and goals."
The MIAA provides shorter trips and a cut on the travel expenses alleviating brutal travel schedules and athletes missing several days of class. “A clear intent is to provide scheduling opportunities that would help avoid student-athletes missing class time while managing our schools’ travel costs,” said new MIAA commissioner Bob Boerigter.
With the move, UNK will have five MIAA opponents that are geographically closer than their closest RMAC opponent Chadron State.
The move to the MIAA is not going to be an easy transition. The MIAA is by far the premier Division II conference in the nation. Year after year, the MIAA is always represented well in post-season tournaments and has had several national champions in its history. The Lopers have had great success in the RMAC since joining in 1994, winning 54 regular season titles, several conference tournament championships and appearances in post-season tournaments. “I’ve been able to watch how Kearney has grown their programs from a distance. Their facilities are terrific. They’ve done a wonderful job with their campus infrastructure, and they’ve hosted national championships…We’re excited. It will be great,” Boerigter said.
By joining the MIAA, the Lopers will be in the same conference as the University of Nebraska at Omaha for the first time in school history. The MIAA added UNO as a league member in 2008. UNK will also be in the same conference as long-time rival and former RMAC member Fort Hays State University.
Director of Athletics at UNK, John McBride, said the move is “a homecoming of sorts.”
“There’s a lot of familiarity between the MIAA schools and Kearney. Having UNO and Fort Hays in there kept Nebraska at Kearney in mind. And the timing is right to make the move,” McBride said.
UNK is excited for its new journey, but until then, the Lopers need to take care of business in the RMAC.