Eleven days after the Montana Tech football program released their upcoming 2023 football schedule, the Orediggers are forced to scramble to try and fill a date. As of April 4th Simon Fraser (British Columbia, Canada) has announced the end of their varsity football program.

The Red Leafs of Simon Fraser were scheduled to play the Orediggers on September 9th in Butte. The Orediggers and Red Leafs had met 4 times previously, 1978, 1979, 1981 and 1982, with Simon Fraser winning the first 3, and the Diggs taking the final meeting in 1982. Prior to 2020 Simon Fraser used the nickname ‘Clansmen’ or ‘Clan’,  the new nickname, Red Leaf was announced in 2022

Simon Fraser played football in the United States from 1965 to 2001 as a member of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). In 2010 they transitioned to NCAA Division II football, joining the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC). In 2021 the GNAC dropped football as a conference sport, leaving Simon Fraser and the other two remaining football programs (Central Washington, and Western Oregon) scrambling to find a conference.

On November 18, 2021, the Lone Star Conference (yes, in Texas) announced they would bring the three remaining GNAC football schools in as football only members.

Earlier this year, the Lone Star Conference announced they would be parting ways with Simon Fraser as an affiliate member following this upcoming football season. Once that decision was made, it didn’t take long for the leadership at Simon Fraser to pull the plug on football. You can read Simon Fraser’s President’s statement HERE.

There has been a lot of excitement in the Frontier Conference, with Arizona Christian joining as a football member this coming season. But there are some really big questions looming: does Ottawa University of Arizona (OUAZ) join the Frontier, like their neighbor Arizona Christian?

And far more pressing, what happens now in the North Star Athletic Conference (What a lot of us still call the Dak-10)? You might remember, earlier this year Presentation college in South Dakota announced they were closing (you can read more about that closing HERE) , and just a few weeks ago Iowa Wesleyan also announced they will be closing the school. Leaving the North Star with 5 football schools (no automatic bid for conference winner) and 7 basketball schools.

I have a gut feeling the Frontier Conference is going to see a lot more changes over the next few years, and I for one am really looking forward to it.

Oredigger helmets. photo courtesy of Jon Wick 5518Designs

Oh, and if you happen to know of a football team in need of a game on September 9th, give Montana Tech Head Coach Kyle Samson a call.

You can look at the Oredigger Football schedule HERE.

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