SIOUX CITY | Briar Cliff fans, get ready for some indoor football.
The Chargers plan to play their home football games 39 miles up the road at the University of South Dakota’s DakotaDome, the schools announced Thursday.
The schools have entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding,” according to a joint press release, which won’t go into full effect until the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
“We’re at a point where we have to start looking at what we need to do to move this program forward,” said Briar Cliff head coach Tom Rethman, whose Chargers are coming off a 2-9 season. “Getting our own stadium wasn’t something that was going to happen now, so (athletic director) Mr. (Steve) Gast did a great job looking around for a progression for us to upgrade and we were fortunate that USD gave us this opportunity.”
The Chargers will still play five games this fall at Bishop Heelan’s Memorial Field – their home since the program’s inception nine years ago – but have contracted one game at the DakotaDome, Sept. 22 against Hastings, for next season.
The new agreement stops short of a full contract, because athletic director David Sayler said the schools must iron out a few more details.
“We will have to work through dates and some financial issues, but we’re certainly excited about the process,” said Sayler. “We’re excited about getting this done with Briar Cliff. We want to get through this first game to get an idea of the cost, then it’s a matter of getting things done and we can move forward. We will do everything we can to make it happen.”
Briar Cliff will be one of just a few NAIA schools to play its regular season games in a dome. Montana State Northern also moves in to a domed facility this fall.
“Part of the driving force behind this was trying to provide something different than what other teams in this area are able to offer,” Rethman said. “Any time you’re dealing with recruiting, you’re trying to find any possible edge you can so we’re hoping this is something that will at least be seen as an attraction for local players to come and check out.”
Scheduling conflicts may occur, with possible doubleheaders on days the Coyotes and Chargers each have scheduled home games. Rethman said that comes with the territory.
“You might see a time frame where we’re both playing at home and we may play at 11 a.m. and them at night, or vice versa,” said the BCU coach. “It’s just one of those things we’ll have to work around, but our guys are excited about it.”
The DakotaDome, home to USD Coyote football since 1979, also hosts the South Dakota high school state championship games and Vermillion High School home contests.
The South Dakota Board of Regents recently approved the replacement of the dome’s turf. New artificial turf will be installed later this summer.
“While the ‘Cliff’ remains our home, we will build a network of connected, and often shared, sites where we teach, learn, work, compete and recreate,” Briar Cliff athletic director Steve Gast said in a release. “We will be constantly evolving innovative ways to satisfy our athletic and recreational needs. We feel that the DakotaDome is the first example of this. It will provide a tremendous game-day environment for our football team, our opponents, our students, fans and everyone associated with BCU football.”