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BSU notebook: Basketball schedule changes adopted at NSIC meetings

The biggest news to come out of last week's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference meetings in St. Cloud were adjustments to basketball and baseball scheduling.

NSIC athletic directors voted to bump the number of conference games up from 20 to 22 beginning in the 2010-11 season.

"I'm very pleased with what went on at the meetings," Bemidji State men's basketball coach Matt Bowen said Tuesday afternoon. "Some good progress was made."

Bowen said the NSIC basketball coaches pushed hard for the more balanced 22-game conference schedule.

The change will likely dispose of the annual NSIC HoopsFest, which began last year as a way for selected conference teams to fill their schedules with two extra games without counting the results toward conference standings.

The move also gives the conference playoffs a field more representative of the regular season standings.

Under the current schedule, Bemidji State plays every NSIC team at least once during the season but only seven teams twice. It is a problem all teams face in the NSIC since four teams were added last season.

The top eight teams in the 14-team conference make the playoffs each season.

Playoff expansion was also discussed at the meetings, but no decision was made.

Bowen said the coaches would also like to see the playoffs expand to 12 teams, but some athletic directors in the conference are against that move.

He said the conference tournament as it stands is designed to prepare NSIC teams for the NCAA regional tournament. That is one of the primary reasons for the hesitance of the athletic directors.

"We didn't make any decisions on conference tournaments at this time," NSIC commissioner Butch Raymond told the St. Cloud Times last week. "In the future, we'll have to figure out if we want to add more teams. We like keeping it line with the regional tournaments. There's eight teams in the regional for basketball and six for baseball. We like to prepare teams for that format."

A more serious discussion on playoff expansion could come during next summer's meetings. The conference currently schedules in two-year cycles. The upcoming season is the second of the current two-year cycle.

As for baseball, athletic directors approved the coaches' recommendations of moving doubleheaders to a nine-inning game followed by a seven-inning game. That change will take effect the upcoming season.

The current doubleheader format has back-to-back seven inning games.

No decision was made on NSIC league expansion. Minot State University and the University of Sioux Falls were recently accepted to one-year candidacy periods for Division II membership. The two current Dakota Athletic Conference schools are looking for a conference to play in and the NSIC presents the best geographic fit for those programs.

The next round of NSIC meetings will take place Sept. 21 in St. Paul.

The Bemidji State football team will begin fall drills Thursday.

Players checked in on Wednesday and the first practice will take place today at approximately 4 p.m. on the practice field adjacent to the BSU soccer field.

The players then go helmets only for Friday and Saturday's practice, move to shells on Sunday and run with full gear Monday.

The Beavers open the 2009 season Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. under the lights at Chet Anderson Stadium against Minot State University.

The Bemidji State athletic program was presented with the NSIC Sportsmanship award at last week's league meetings.

The award is voted on by NSIC head coaches and a Student Athlete Advisory Committee member. The award is based on the sportsmanship of players, fans, staff and coaches at each opposing NSIC institution. 

BSU athletic director Rick Goeb was on hand to accept the award. The award, a glass bowl attached to a wooden base, was on display in the BSU athletic office Wednesday.

Lee Ahlbrecht, a 1966 BSU grad who returned in 1968 to begin a 23-year coaching career at BSU, was induced to the NSIC Hall of Fame last Friday in St. Cloud.

Ahlbrecht coached the BSU swimming team from 1968-91 and his teams compiled a 150-49 record.

He coached 151 All-Americans, four national champions and seven Olympic trial qualifiers. His teams finished in the top 20 nationally every year, including 12 top ten finishes and four fourth place finishes.

Ahlbrecht was named coach of the year many times during his career and was inducted into the Minnesota Swimming and Diving Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996. He was inducted into the BSU Hall of Fame in 2000.

Health issues kept Ahlbrecht from accepting the award last Friday night in St. Cloud. Accepting on his behalf was 2007 NSIC Hall of Fame inductee Marc Hamren.