Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a former Congresswoman who is now in her second year as president of Augustana University, speaks at an October 2018 Yankton Quarterback Club luncheon.

The Summit League Presidents Council has decided to not extend a membership invitation to Augustana University at this time.

The Sioux Falls-based school had announced in December 2018 that part of its long-term strategic plan involved a transition to NCAA Division I athletics. Augustana, a member of the Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, had applied for membership in the Summit League, which already includes the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State.

“The Presidents Council had a robust discussion on membership and opted not to invite any additional members at this time,” according to a statement from the Summit League. “We will continue to stay focused and strategic as we look toward the future of the League.”

Augustana also released a statement Wednesday that touched on the news from the Presidents Council and its next steps.

“During these unprecedented times dealing with COVID-19, Augustana remains focused on serving our current students and executing our strategic plan,” the statement said.

“’Viking Bold: The Journey to 2030’ is a 10-year strategic plan, and while we are disappointed in The Summit League’s decision at this time, we recognize the ever-evolving and shifting landscape within intercollegiate athletics. Just as we have grown as a university and athletics department over the past 10 years, we look forward to even more growth this decade.”

The Presidents Council vote does not change Augustana’s vision, the statement continued.

“While our goal of a Division I conference invitation has not changed, we remain a proud member of the NSIC and of NCAA Division II and will continue to pursue excellence in the classroom, competition and the community,” the statement read.

Augustana president Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said during an October 2018 appearance at Yankton Quarterback Club that a possible Division I move would be part of the university’s strategic plan.

The university’s Board of Trustees, she said, “think it’s important to explore this possibility because of a very critical point: Athletics can be a means to helping Augustana achieve its vision.”

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