The Great Northwest Athletic Conference will soon have an open slot. The Southern Oregon University Athletic Department wants to know if that slot is Raider-shaped.

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference will soon have an open slot. The Southern Oregon University Athletic Department wants to know if that slot is Raider-shaped.

In the fall, SOU Athletic Director Dennis Francois hopes to complete an institution self-study to determine if the school can and should leave the NAIA to join the NCAA as a Division II program. The data from the completed survey must go before the university, including the faculty and student senates, before further steps are taken.

"Overall, the feedback's been very positive," Francois said.

The self-study guide, released by the NCAA, consists of a series of "yes" or "no" questions designed to gauge the fitness of a school's athletic program. The questions address such topics as finances, hiring procedures and on-campus medical service availability. NCAA member schools are required to perform a self-study at least every five years.

Seattle University will leave the GNAC in July to join Division I of the NCAA, leaving nine teams in the conference. The GNAC will need to recruit either one or three schools to even out its roster.

According to Raider Club Vice President Pete Belcastro, GNAC Commissioner Richard Hannan expressed interest in SOU during a recent visit. Belcastro feels that a move to the NCAA would be right for SOU.

"This is a win-win for everybody," he said.

Besides the independent SOU football team, the Raiders currently compete in the Cascade Collegiate Conference. The CCC consists mostly of private Christian colleges such as Corban College, Concordia University, Cascade College and Northwest Christian College. Of the 11 schools in the CCC, only four, including SOU, are public institutions.

According to Belcastro, the university would need an additional $800,000 annually to match the average GNAC school athletic expenditure of $3 million. He feels that much of this money could be raised through the perks of NCAA membership, such as sponsorships and increased lottery revenues.

Francois said the annual cost of membership in the GNAC is $25,000. New members must pay two years worth of dues up front plus $16,000 for a total of $66,000 in the first year. The NCAA requires a $12,000 application fee and an annual fee of $450.

The NCAA pays for postseason travel, while the NAIA does not. SOU's athletic teams currently pay their own way to and from all away games and events.

Francois said he hopes to have exact budget requirements available as the self-study draws to a close in the coming months. If SOU makes the change, the NCAA still requires a two-year probationary period before the school becomes a full member.

"It's going to be a long, drawn-out process," said SOU Sports Information Director Bobby Heiken.

According to Francois, the plan is still in the data-gathering phase. Much depends on the outcome of the self-study.

"We've got a lot of work to do yet," he said.