FARGO, N.D. -- The Gateway Football Conference says North Dakota State and South Dakota State are joining its ranks, giving the league nine members schools.
The new members will begin play in the St. Louis-based Gateway in 2008, when they will be eligible for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The subdivision is the former NCAA Division I-AA.
"One can justifiably argue the Gateway is the strongest, deepest and most respected FCS conference in the nation," Gateway commissioner Patty Viverito said in a statement Wednesday announcing the new members.
"The decision to add North Dakota State and South Dakota State leaves no doubt," she said.
The two schools began the five-year Division I reclassification together in 2003 and said they would join the Gateway only if both were admitted.
NDSU and SDSU helped form the Great West Football Conference in 2004, along with California Poly, California Davis, Southern Utah, Northern Colorado and St. Mary's (Calif.) College.
St. Mary's dropped football and Northern Colorado joined the Big Sky Conference, leaving the Great West with just five teams -- one short of the number needed for an automatic playoff bid.
Gateway members are Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Missouri State and Youngstown State (Ohio).
North Dakota State won the Great West Football Conference title last year with a 4-0 conference mark and compiled 10-1 overall record. South Dakota State was runner-up in the league, compiling a 3-1 league mark and 7-4 overall record.