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NCAA schools looking to reclassify to Division II could soon see new membership requirements

Committee says changes to current process are needed

As Division I adjusts to a recent reorganization within its governance structure, members in Division II are beginning to ask: How will these changes affect us?

Although no one knows the answer just yet, the Division II Membership Committee is taking a proactive approach in preparing for potential trickle-down impacts. At its November meeting in Indianapolis, the committee reviewed the current process for schools interested in reclassifying from Division I to Division II and agreed that an update of the process is needed.

Division II has not received any formal inquiries from Division I schools looking to switch divisions, NCAA staff liaisons said. Still, the committee felt the timing was right to modify the process and policies surrounding divisional reclassification.

“The landscape of divisional membership may be fluid in the future, and as the membership committee, we must be vigilant and keep current with our policies and procedures,” said Debbie Chin, the associate vice president and director of athletics and recreation at the University of New Haven and the Division II Membership Committee chair. “In continuing efforts to be mindful of managing Division II’s strategic growth, the committee will continue to review potential members regardless of current division from a position of ‘controlled’ excellence and a readiness to become an active and valued Division II member.”

Currently, any school interested in reclassifying to Division II from Division I is required to submit to the Membership Committee its strategic plan, the president’s vision for athletics, a mission statement for athletics and its reasons for seeking Division II membership. The committee then organizes a visit to the school and an audit by an outside consultant to determine whether the school’s athletics department meets Division II rules.

The policy does not include a time limit for the transition, which is a standard the committee would like to add. Other policy changes the committee discussed include requiring Division I schools seeking reclassification to secure conference affiliation and meet the same requirements defined in the traditional Division II membership process.

During a December teleconference, the committee will assess and approve a framework for the reclassification process that will include guidelines and a timetable for a formal application, Division II philosophical standards as well as legislative and minimum requirements. A detailed process and the finalized application will be reviewed for approval at the committee’s February in-person meeting.

Few schools have reclassified from Division I to Division II since the NCAA was divided into three divisions in 1973. Since 2007, one school – Winston-Salem State University – began the reclassification process from Division II to Division I before returning to Division II in 2010-11, and another school – the University of New Orleans – declared its intent to reclassify from Division I to Division II, but later withdrew its application.

Also at the Membership Committee meeting:

  • The committee issued a clarification for the legislative proposal that would require schools to employ a full-time compliance administrator with no coaching duties. The proposed legislation, the committee clarified, pertains to senior compliance administrators in particular. If adopted at the NCAA Convention in January, the committee recommended the Division II Legislation Committee issue an official interpretation for members. Read more about the division’s personnel proposal here.
  • The committee recommended noncontroversial legislation that would require all schools seeking Division II membership to meet the division’s health and safety standards throughout the three-year process.