Southern Oregon University's request for a football-only exemption to compete at the NCAA Division II level was shot down Thursday, SOU athletic director Dennis Francois said.




Francois was told of the NCAA's decision by telephone.




"He basically stated that we do not qualify for that since we are not a current (NCAA) member," Francois said. "Their bylaws prohibit us from participating due to our NAIA affiliation."




The decision did not come as a surprise to the University, which competes as an NAIA independent in football and as a member of the Cascade Conference in the other major sports. "But, we're going to go through the process of that anyway," Francois said in an interview two weeks ago, "knowing that hopefully it will spark that interest in (the NCAA), making sure that they know that we are interested in it and trying to create a solution for west coast football."




Now, Francois said, SOU will look into the pros and cons of seeking across-the-board NCAA Division II membership. The deadline to apply is June 1.




"I think we're going to have to get a lot of input by a lot of people," Francois said. " no means will this decision be made in a vacuum.




"That's one thing I want to make clear. We're just going to look into it, investigate it this coming year and determine if we would actually move forward after that. Ultimately, I think it will be a good exercise for us to go through just so we can identify where our strengths and weaknesses lie in the athletic department and how we can make improvements on that, regardless of if we opt for going in that direction or not."




If Southern Oregon does apply for NCAA Division II membership, it will go through a minimum two-year "exploratory" period followed by a minimum one-year "provisional" period. SOU also must find a sponsor, a role that will likely be filled by Western Oregon University.




The SOU football team has competed as an NAIA independent since the Columbia Football Association disbanded in 1998. Since then, SOU has made several attempts to either join or form another conference. All have gone nowhere, including a recent attempt to join Azusa Pacific, Simon Fraser, the University of British Columbia, Concordia Irvine and Fresno Pacific to form a league that would probably be called the Pacific International Football Conference.




"We'd love to see that happen," Francois said. "If football had a home, we might not be having this conversation. Football's a driving force."




Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.