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Raiders withdraw from CFA

ASHLAND -- Southern Oregon University has withdrawn from the Columbia Football Association, athletic director Monty Cartwright announced Thursday.

Citing the CFA's loss of an automatic berth in the NAIA playoff system and the league's recent adoption of NCAA Division II guidelines, Cartwright said SOU will remain in the NAIA for all sports -- with the football program competing as an NAIA independent.

The policies and procedures of the CFA are no longer consistent with the overall goals of our program, Cartwright said. The CFA is basically turning into an NCAA Division II league. I view this as a positive move in our efforts to compete at the national level as part of the NAIA. This is the goal for all our sports programs, including football.

Thursday's announcement officially ended SOU's membership in the small college football league that had landed a team in the NAIA championship game in 11 of its first 12 seasons since formation in 1985. The Raiders, a charter member, compiled a 40-37-1 record in CFA games and captured a league title in 1990.

Nine current or former CFA teams have switched to NCAA status in recent years, including the 1995 departure of six Oregon and Washington private colleges to form the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference. Because of the NCAA influx and exodus, 1998 was the last year the CFA champion or highest-placing NAIA member school was eligible for an automatic playoff berth.

The Raiders, Simon Fraser and Eastern Oregon are the lone remaining schools in the Pacific Northwest competing in the NAIA for football. As an NAIA independent, those teams would qualify for the 16-team playoffs based on a high national ranking in the final regular season top-25 poll.

Southern Oregon will retain its rivalries with three CFA schools (Western Oregon, Humboldt State and Simon Fraser), although no future games are scheduled with the two other league members (Central Washington and Western Washington), both full-fledged NCAA Division II scholarship-granting teams.

Based on our resources, the best interests of the football program both now and in the future are for us to play like-minded institutions, SOU football coach Jeff Olson said. In terms of remaining competitive on the national level, this makes a lot of sense.

SOU, which went 4-6 overall and 2-3 in the CFA last season, has eight football contests scheduled for the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Cartwright and Olson, however, are actively pursuing nine or 10-game campaigns.

The Raiders are members of the NAIA's Cascade Conference for basketball, volleyball, cross country and track. Wrestling and women's tennis teams are NAIA independents.