The NSIC can trace its roots to 1932 when six schools, including Bemidji State University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minnesota State University Moorhead, St. Cloud State University, University of Minnesota Duluth and Winona State University signed on as charter members. All remain active subscribers of the league today.
Southwest Minnesota State University was added in 1969, followed by Northern State University in 1978, Wayne State College (NE) in 1998, Concordia University-St. Paul and the University of Minnesota Crookston in 1999, the University of Mary and Upper Iowa University in 2006, Augustana College in 2008 and Minot State University and the University of Sioux Falls in 2012.
Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth later left the league to join the North Central Conference but returned to the NSIC in 2008. University of Minnesota, Morris and Michigan Tech University were once part of the NSIC family as well.
In 1992 the NSIC became a true athletic showcase for both men and women with the merger of the traditional Northern Intercollegiate Conference (NIC) and the Northern Sun Conference (NSC), the home of women’s athletics since 1979.
Before NSIC affiliates became certified for championship competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1995, its member institutions filled prominent roles in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). NIC and NSC clubs annually dispatched qualified student-athletes to national tournaments and captured several NAIA teams and individual championships.
The NSIC celebrates its 82nd season this year and clearly continues to make a major imprint nationally, winning 12 national titles since 2006. Winona State men claimed NCAA II Basketball Championships in 2006 and 2008 and narrowly missed a third crown, falling in a last second shot in 2007. In addition, the Warriors established a NCAA II record of 57 consecutive victories.
Concordia University launched an ongoing streak of six consecutive NCAA II Volleyball Championships in 2007. In 2008 the Golden Bears won 37 straight matches after a season opening loss on their way to a second consecutive title and scripted a marvelous encore in 2009 with a perfect 37-0 finish, a third straight national crown and a winning streak of 74 straight matches. In 2010 the Golden Bear extended that NCAA record win streak to 75 before dropping their second match of the season. They started 2010 with a 10-4 record before ripping off 22 straight wins on their way to their fourth straight national title. In 2011, after overcoming midseason injuries, the Golden Bears hit their stride. The Golden Bears knocked off No. 1 and undefeated Cal State San Bernardino to become the first team in the history of NCAA Division II women’s volleyball, to captured a fifth consecutive NCAA Division II Championship. Then in 2012, the Golden Bears again made a late season and championship match surge as they defeated Tampa 3-2 after trailing 0-2 to win their sixth straight NCAA DII Volleyball National Championship.
In a most surprising run, Minnesota Duluth completed a perfect 15-0 season by winning the 2008 NCAA Division II Football Championship. The Bulldogs, limited to only 24 scholarships by league rule, swept a field of fully-funded teams, including top ranked Grand Valley State and number three Northwest Missouri State. Two years later, in 2010, the Bulldogs repeated that feat, going 15-0 again to win the national championship. The Bulldogs became the first NCAA DII football squad to win two national championships with undefeated records.
Minnesota State added more luster to the league by finishing 32-2 and claiming the 2008-09 NCAA II Women’s Basketball Championship. The Mavericks rolled to a wild 103-94 victory over Franklin Pierce to set a NCAA record for total points in the title game.
Augustana College got into the mix of national championships in 2011 when their women’s cross country team turned in a true team performance in Spokane, Wash. All five Viking runners earned All-American status as Augustana won the first cross country national championship in NSIC history.
The NSIC has also had seven athletes awarded with the NCAA Elite 89 Award, which is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships. Earning the award were Ben Keller (Minnesota State, Baseball 2012 & 2013), Billy Brockmueller (Sioux Falls, Cross Country 2013), Cody Lensing (Augustana, Wrestling 2012), Kendra Huettl (Minnesota State, Softball, 2011), Matt Braithwaite (Augustana, Cross Country, 2010) and Lauren Brown (Winona State, Outdoor Track & Field, 2010).
Member schools continue to emphasize the educational, entertainment and unifying value of sports while pointing with pride to the many advantages to be gained by attending these colleges and universities. The NSIC is committed to providing rewarding experiences for its student-athletes, and while the challenges that loom are sizable, indeed, the NSIC is surely well positioned for the future.
(By Larry Scott & Nick Kornder)