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Olson off to plead Raiders' case

For years, Southern Oregon University head football coach — Jeff Olson has asked players to put their bodies on the line.

Today, he'll try to convince a group of presidents to — risk something far more valuable: their money.

Olson will be the Raiders' lone representative in Lewiston, — Idaho, where he'll explain to the Frontier Conference league of presidents — what SOU can bring to the Montana-based league.

"I'm not sure if I should wear a whistle around my neck, — or a tie," Olson quipped. "I think I'll go with a tie."

The SOU football program has been aiming to join the Frontier — Conference since the end of the 2003 football season. Olson says the move — would help the independent Raiders on many different levels.

"This would certainly provide direction for us for scheduling — and for recognition of our players," Olson said. "I just think it would — be a very positive step for our program."

It would also likely improve the Raiders' chances of making — the NAIA national playoffs. Currently, SOU must finish as the nation's — top-ranked independent to earn an automatic berth to nationals. In the — Frontier, the Raiders could clinch a playoff spot by

winning the six-team conference.

The presentation will be the second made by the Raiders — before the league of presidents this year. After the first presentation, — made by SOU athletic director Phil Pifer Jan. 27, FC officials asked SOU — to return for today's semiannual meeting, but did not move to accept the — Raiders.

According to Frontier Conference commissioner Ron Kennison, — the league's biggest hang-up with adding SOU is the increased travel cost. — Each FC team would need to make the long trip to Ashland - probably by — plane - at least once every two years. This Kenison has said, presents — a financial obligation that the league is currently unable, or unwilling, — to bear.

Olson's challenge is to convince the presidents that adding — SOU will be worth the travel cost.

"I'm going to try and certainly promote what Southern — Oregon can bring to the table both as an institution and what we bring — to the field," he said. "It can only enhance the conference."

Olson's presentation is one of several items on the docket. — A decision anytime soon is unlikely.

Still, Olson says it's important that somebody represents — SOU in person.

"I think by us going again shows good faith on our part — that we're wanting to make this thing happen," he said.

SOU, which has played an independent schedule since the — Columbia Football Association dissolved after the 1998 season, wants to — join a conference because the Raiders' location and status as an NAIA — elite has made scheduling increasingly difficult. In 2003, only three — of the Raiders' nine games were at home and their itinerary included exhausting — road trips to Bethany, Okla., and Silver City, N.M.

The Raiders' 2004 schedule is slightly more favorable, — with four home games to go with two road trips to Montana (vs. Rocky Mountain — and Montana State-Northern) and another long bus ride to southern California — (vs. University of San Diego).

Even if the Frontier Conference does accept SOU, the Raiders — won't become a full-fledged member - that is, they won't be able to compete — for a conference championship - until 2006 because FC teams have already — laid out their schedules through the 2005 season.