- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City is joining the 14 other schools in South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico and Nebraska that are members of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Current members voted unanimously Friday to extend the invitation, the conference said Monday. The School of Mines is currently an independent school, not affiliated with any conference. Men’s soccer and football have agreements with the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

School president Heather Wilson said Monday it’s a natural fit for the public university that’s in its first year as a full member of NCAA Division II athletic competition.

“For us and our community, it means more home games for the fans and less time on the road for the athletes and good competition with our traditional rivals,” she said.

Those include Black Hills State University in Spearfish and Chadron State in Chadron, Neb.

Kaleb Center with the Rocky Mountain conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., said the School of Mines aligns well with the conference geographically, athletically and academically.

“They bring a bunch of sports that we could little boost of members hip in, such as men’s soccer and men’ and women’s golf. They’re also a football school and they’re a pretty good-sized media market for us,” he said.

All 13 Hardrocker sports programs will start the transition next fall and finish in 2016 with football, Wilson said. They’ve been competing as independents, with the exceptions of football and men’s soccer.

“Being an independent is very, very hard,” Wilson said. “It’s really good for our coaches and athletes and certainly helps with recruitment.”

The school’s enrollment is 2,641, with 248 student athletes, she said.

With the conference announcement, the school will advertise for a new athletic director to replace Dick Kaiser, who resigned in July.

“We think we’ll have a better applicant pool because we’ll have an RMAC membership,” Wilson said.

Other members: Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo.; Colorado Christian University in Denver; Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo.; Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.; Colorado State University-Pueblo in Pueblo, Colo.; Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.; Metropolitan State University of Denver; New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M.; Regis University in Denver; University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; Western New Mexico University in Silver City, N.M.; and Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colo.

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