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Division I Council proposes pathway for DIII schools to become DI members

Proposal will be sent to Division I members for feedback before April 2021 vote

During its June meeting by videoconference, the Division I Council introduced a proposal into the 2020-21 legislative cycle that would establish a reclassification process for schools to transition directly from Division III to Division I.

The proposal was recommended by the Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee, which met by videoconference Monday.

The current 12-year process requires Division III schools to first reclassify to Division II before joining Division I. If adopted, the process to transition directly from Division III to Division I would require at minimum five years.

“We have spent several months examining data that reflect outcomes for schools transitioning to DI based on certain benchmarks, including academic profile, financial aid awards, sports sponsorship, competitive equity and financial sustainability,” said Rick George, chair of the Strategic Vision and Planning Committee and athletics director at Colorado. “This proposed pathway for Division III schools to successfully make the transition to Division I accounts for any additional challenges those schools may face in reaching membership requirements.”

Under this proposal, Division III members planning to reclassify to Division I would be required to spend at least one year in the pre-application process. Criteria to move forward from that pre-application period to the existing Division I reclassification process would include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Submitting a strategic plan.
  • Conducting a feasibility study for Division I requirements, including provision of athletics scholarships and meeting compliance standards.
  • Securing a formal invitation to join a Division I conference.
  • Establishing school policies and procedures that reflect a commitment to Division I principles, including academic integrity, diversity and inclusion, and student-athlete health and well-being.

“The existing process for Division II schools transitioning to Division I has been successful in preparing those schools for meaningful membership in Division I, and we believe that with additional time meeting certain benchmarks, Division III schools could be equally well-positioned to make that transition,” George said.

Under this proposed model, the Strategic Vision and Planning Committee would closely evaluate pre-application benchmarks and requirements submitted by the school. Once the school has satisfied the requirements of the pre-application period, the school would submit its application, including application fee, and begin the existing four-year reclassification process.

Throughout the remainder of the process, the school would be required to meet the same benchmarks required of schools reclassifying from Division II. The committee also would review the school’s progress each year to determine whether it is prepared to move forward in the process or would need to repeat a year.

Division I members will be asked to review and provide feedback on this proposal before a vote by the Division I Council, which would occur by April 2021.

While this legislation is under consideration, the Council indicated it would be receptive to a formal waiver request from Division III St. Thomas (Minnesota) and the Summit League that would allow the school to begin the reclassification process.