May 20, 2019
LEWISTON, Idaho – Lewis-Clark State College will become a member of the Cascade Collegiate Conference in the summer of 2020 after the conference’s Council of Presidents voted to approve LCSC’s application at their meeting in Portland, Ore., on Monday.
LCSC will remain a member of the Frontier Conference through the 2019-20 academic year and then will make the move to the CCC, which became an NAIA affiliated conference in 1993.
LCSC will become the 12th full member of the conference, joining College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon, Evergreen State, Multnomah, Northwest University, Northwest Christian, Oregon Tech, Southern Oregon, Walla Walla University, Warner Pacific, and Corban.
College administrators say the move presents a number of potential advantages including improvements to sport alignment, travel, scheduling, and recruiting. Regarding alignment, the Cascade Conference offers 10 of LCSC’s 12 sports, excluding only tennis, while the Frontier Conference features league play for just seven of LCSC’s sports.
“On behalf of Lewis-Clark State College, I thank the Frontier Conference for the wonderful partnership we have enjoyed over the years, as well as the Cascade Collegiate Conference for this new opportunity,” LCSC President Cynthia Pemberton said. “Athletics is an integral part of LCSC’s history and future and we are very excited to begin this new chapter. With the potential for less hazardous and arduous travel, we feel this change will put our student-athletes in an even better position to excel both on the court and in the classroom.”
While conference alignment considerations have been going on for some time, the move for LCSC became especially attractive last year after the NAIA decided to transition from two divisions of basketball to one starting in the 2020-21 academic year. Previously, the CCC played at the NAIA Division II level in basketball, while LCSC competed at the Division I level.
“We are looking for alignment and we align geographically with the Cascade Conference,” LCSC athletic director Brooke Henze said. “We are the closest to the College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Walla Walla, so it makes sense that we are in a conference with those institutions. Also, with the change with Division I and Division II basketball, the timing is almost perfect for us to make the transition to the Cascade Collegiate Conference.”
LCSC has been a member of the Frontier Conference since 1999. It is the only conference school not located in the state of Montana or in the Mountain time zone. Because most of the CCC members are in the Pacific Northwest, shorter travel and better winter road conditions were key benefits of the move.
“We are very pleased to welcome Lewis-Clark State College as our newest member,” CCC commissioner Robert Cashell said. “When we were initially contacted by the campus leadership about their interest, we immediately began assessing the positives of adding such a strong and storied institution to our ranks. LCSC’s location, stellar academic reputation, broad array of athletic program offerings, and commitment to excellence make them an ideal fit.”
In the Frontier Conference, LCSC’s shortest drive during winter travel is Carroll College, which is 394 miles. Only three of the 11 CCC basketball teams are located further away than Helena. With winter climate usually milder in the Pacific Northwest compared to Montana, not only are distances traveled reduced, but the road conditions should also be better.
“Southern Oregon and Rocky Mountain are pretty close to the same distance from Lewiston,” Henze said. “It’s those shorter distances that make the difference when you look at mileage and the number of opponents. We are going from a conference of seven to a conference where we will be the 12th team. And, we are thrilled about the opportunity for more home conference games.”
“It just makes sense,” said Brian Orr, who just completed his 18th year as LCSC women’s basketball coach. “The obvious benefits come from less travel.”
Competition is another key factor. Like the Frontier Conference, the CCC competes at a high level in a number of sports. In comparing the sports of the two conferences (not counting basketball because of the two divisions) the Cascade Conference had the highest-ranked team in the latest NAIA polls in all the sports that LCSC competes in. Those sports are men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, and women’s volleyball. Last year, the CCC also sent more athletes to the NAIA national indoor and outdoor track meets than the Frontier Conference.
Overall, the CCC competes in seven men’s and seven women’s sports. The men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, track and field, and wrestling. The women’s sports are basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball. LCSC does not offer wrestling, soccer, or softball, but is looking at the possibility of adding a women’s soccer team in the future.
League play would also be a better fit. In the six-team Frontier Conference, LCSC must play each of the six Montana schools three times in basketball. Joining a league that already has 11 basketball teams, LCSC would get more of a variety and more league games in.
“One of the challenges at LC is scheduling, which automatically gets easier when we increase to 22 conference games,” Orr said. “But I think the biggest benefit involves recruiting. The majority of our players are from Washington and Oregon and I can tell you their parents are really excited about the change. Our top recruit for 2020, who is from the Portland area, has told us if we do change to the Cascade she is coming to LC State.
“Last year when we played in Kirkland (Northwest) and Ashland (Southern Oregon) we had a ton of support at every game, including alumni. We also had several AAU coaches at those games and I think it helps us when they can see us play. I think I am speaking for all the coaches when I say we are all excited to be moving to the Cascade Conference.”
With Walla Walla University just 100 miles away, the Wolves would be the most likely school to be LCSC’s travel partner for league play in basketball and volleyball. Also, with LCSC becoming the 12th team, the CCC will have the option of going to two six-team divisions if it so chooses for those sports. All CCC schools except for College of Idaho are located in the Pacific time zone.
LCSC plays in the NAIA West for baseball and the other four members of the league belong to the CCC – Corban, College of Idaho, Oregon Tech, and British Columbia (associate member).
“We are excited to continue as a Cascade Conference member for baseball,” LCSC baseball coach Jake Taylor said. “It creates stability and continuity, not only for our sport, but for all athletics at Lewis-Clark State.”
Joining the Cascade Conference could provide LCSC more scheduling flexibility in terms of scheduling Frontier Conference teams in non-league games and tournaments. With more league games, the coaching staff would have an easier time filling out schedules than they currently do.
The CCC and FC have worked closely in other sports outside of baseball. In men’s and women’s soccer, the CCC allows three teams in the Frontier Conference – Carroll, Rocky Mountain, and Providence – to play in its league. In turn, the FC allows Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and College of Idaho to participate in its league for football.
Henze said officials with the Frontier Conference understand the reasons for LCSC’s move. Henze said she would like to continue some of LCSC’s rivalries with FC schools in non-league play.
“I played in the Frontier Conference when I was a student-athlete so the conference will always have a spot in my heart,” Henze said. “There are great people and great institutions in the Frontier Conference and the conference has been great to us. We are definitely going to miss those people and rivalries, but we really have to do what is best for overall athletics and this is the right move at the right time.”