By David Pickle
The 2013 Division II Winter National Championships Festival has been moved from Cleveland to Birmingham, Ala., because of challenges involving the hotel block in Cleveland.
The Festival − which will feature Division II national championships in men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s indoor track, and wrestling – will be conducted March 3-9, 2013, at Birmingham’s CrossPlex multisport facility. The dates and schedule of events will not be affected by the change of venue. The Gulf South Conference and the City of Birmingham will serve as co-hosts.
“Birmingham will be a great host for our winter Festival,” said Pat O’Brien, president of West Texas A&M University and chair of the Division II Presidents Council. “Not only will our student-athletes get the opportunity to compete at a first-class athletics complex, we’ll be able to provide a quality Festival experience with the hotel arrangements and the proximity of the competition venues.”
The Division II Administrative Committee, which O’Brien chairs, includes the leadership of both the Division II Management Council and Presidents Council. The committee authorized the change during a conference call Wednesday.
Division II is the only NCAA membership division that conducts several championships at a common place and time. The two most recent Festivals, fall 2010 and spring 2012, were conducted in Louisville, Ky. About 1,200 student-athletes will compete in the 2013 winter Festival.
The Gulf South Conference, which sponsors 14 men’s and women’s sports, is a premier Division II conference and a charter member of Division II. Birmingham is an experienced NCAA host, having staged the Men’s College Cup (Division I soccer) in 2011. That event will return to Birmingham this fall.
“We’ve advocated bringing events to the Greater Birmingham Area for many years,” said Gulf South Commissioner Nate Salant. “This is a true sports mecca, and with the GSC in town since 1978, there is a lot of Division II history here. Visitors will find a warm, welcoming community with great hotels, terrific and diverse restaurants and springtime weather.
“The state-of-the-art CrossPlex and Harris Arena at the CrossPlex are ideal venues, with plenty of parking and easy access. It’s the right size, right time and right place for Division II, and we look forward to seeing more Division II championships and sports festivals here in the future.”
The competition venues at the CrossPlex feature a 200-meter banked track and a 50-meter Olympic swimming pool. Wrestling will take place at Harris Arena, a 5,000-seat facility in the CrossPlex that features chair-back seating. All competition venues are within walking distance of one another and within a 15-minute drive of the Festival hotels.
“We are grateful to the Gulf South Conference and to the City of Birmingham for their responsiveness,” said Erin Lind, associate commissioner of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and chair of the Division II Championships Committee. “I want to stress, however, that we have no hard feelings toward Cleveland and appreciate their commitment to ensuring the Division II Festival’s success. Representatives there have expressed an interest in hosting future championships, including our Festivals, and we look forward to considering those possibilities.”