Division II is having quite a year – in Division I.
The most recent success is that of the Dallas Baptist baseball team, which advanced Monday to the super-regional round of the Division I Baseball Championship. The main part of the Patriots program resides in Division II with the Heartland Conference.
It’s a big accomplishment for Dallas Baptist, but there’s room for improvement. Just ask Augusta State, which just won its second straight Division I Men’s Golf Championship, or Minnesota Duluth, which recently added a Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship to its five Division I women’s titles. Augusta State is a member of Division II’s Peach Belt Conference in everything but golf while Minnesota Duluth resides in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in all but hockey.
How is this possible?
NCAA rules allow Division II and III programs to classify one men’s and one women’s sport (other than football or basketball) at the Division I level, provided they were already sponsoring them as of 2010-11. The sports that are selected are considered Division I in every sense. They must adhere to the entire range of Division I rules, all the way from coaching-staff limitations to recruiting to financial aid limits to playing and practice seasons.
Division III has a wrinkle. While multidivison classification is also possible there, programs that were not already giving athletically-related financial aid in 2004 have not been permitted to petition to award it since. So, a few Division III institutions offer aid for their Division I teams (and in some cases are highly successful). However, it’s also common for Division III teams competing in I not to offer aid.
Does it work the other way?
No. If an institution classifies its overall program in Division I, all teams must compete at that level. The rules once permitted multidivision classification from Division I to II or III (Dayton won two Division III Football Championships in the 1980s), but the practice was discontinued at the 1994 Convention.
Note: I added a clarification after this was originally posted that through Proposal No. 2010-11, Division I halted any new multidivision classification. Programs that were using the option as of 2010-11 were grandfathered in. Here’s the relevant language from Bylaw 20.4.1: “A member of Division II or Division III may have a sport classified in Division I, provided the sport was so classified during the 2010-11 academic year. Such a classification shall continue until the institution fails to conduct the sport in Division I in any following academic year.”