|UND moves all athletic programs to Division I|
The University will begin the process to move the rest of its athletic programs to Division I, President Charles Kupchella has announced. Nationally recognized for its successful athletic programs, UND currently competes in Division I men’s and women’s hockey and in Division II in 18 other sports.
The decision comes after a five-month, comprehensive review by the University’s NCAA Classification Task Force, which gave its final report to Kupchella at the end of May.
“After studying the report and subsequent conversations and review of the plan with a wide spectrum of stakeholders, I have concluded that it is now in the best interest of the University to begin the process to move our entire athletic program to Division I. Beginning with 2007-2008, we will engage in an official NCAA ‘exploratory’ year. We will use this coming year, 2006-07, to develop a business plan and to begin building a financial foundation to support the move - both necessary to enhance the support base among all UND stakeholders,” said Kupchella.
“I am thrilled with President Kupchella’s leadership and forthright decision-making about the reclassification of our athletics program," said Tom Buning, UND athletic director. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the entire athletics department and our staff. We now have a definite time line and we will use it all to position ourselves in every way possible for success. This is a University decision that will create a new level of excitement for our current and future student body."
Buning added, "This is the beginning of a new era for UND athletics. The days ahead will be filled with many opportunities to get all of our supporters on-board; we have great fans that have a passion for Fighting Sioux athletics. I look forward to working with the campus, Greater Grand Forks communities, and our alumni to create a plan for success.”
Although the task force began its work in January, UND officials have kept the classification issue in mind for some time. Kupchella has said all along that the University would continue to monitor the landscape and would make the best possible decisions for the future of the University.
“This has been the continuation of a thoughtful and deliberate approach, developed as part of our overall strategic planning process,” said Kupchella. That planning process started in earnest several years ago, and has resulted in the development of the Strategic Plan, which guides the major decisions on campus, said Kupchella. The creation of the NCAA Classification Task Force was called for in UND’s second Strategic Plan, which the University unveiled last fall.
Kupchella said the task force report indicates that UND already matches up well with Division I institutions in various key measures, such as the number of sports UND offers, the quality of facilities available to UND athletes, and the support systems UND already has in place.
“The task force report pointed out that nearly all universities of our type and caliber play Division I in all sports. For example, there are 15 similar institutions identified as our peer institutions by a recent legislative study. All 15 play in Division I,” said Kupchella. “More and more schools in Division II look less and less like UND. It would become increasingly difficult to sustain our outstanding athletic tradition if we were to remain in Division II.”
While UND could declare this coming year its NCAA’s ‘exploratory year,’ Kupchella said it is important for the University to lay the groundwork before formally entering the process to change its classification.
“The NCAA’s ‘exploratory year’ is really a transition year,” said Kupchella, “and because of the significant amount of work to be done in order to make an effective move to Division I, we need the upcoming year to address three principal points: (1) We need more support from stakeholder groups than was evident in the study. The report noted, however, that many in our stakeholder groups indicated that they needed more information about ‘how’ such a move might be financed and otherwise made successfully; (2) stakeholders agree that we need a clear direction about conference affiliation, and that there be at least a very high likelihood that there would be a conference or conferences receptive to UND; and (3), cost, which is a major factor. It would appear from the task force report that at a minimum we would need at least $2 million more per year than we now devote to athletics in order to move to Division I in an effective way. This would require some combination of an increased student fee and the building of an athletic program endowment.”
Kupchella said the report indicated that cost increases would come mainly in the form of additional grants-in-aid and travel, although other costs would have to be considered as well.
“Obviously, the number of sports we field and the conference we would join would be significant factors. The Task Force report pointed out that our athletic budget is already in the range of budgets for Division I institutions. Based on meetings with key stakeholder alumni groups, letterwinners and others, I believe we will be able to raise the funds sufficient to compete at the Division I level,” said Kupchella.
The full task force report referenced here can be found at www.und.edu/president/taskforce.html.
UND has highly successful athletic programs. In addition to seven national championship titles in men’s hockey (only one other institution has more), UND has won national championships in football and women's basketball and has a nationally recognized reputation in other sports, as well. UND’s student athletes have earned a combined 3.0 or better grade point average in 16 of the last 17 semesters.