As Northern Kentucky University plans a possible move to Division I, the transition will be challenging for the university.
NCAA rules prohibit teams from competing in the NCAA Tournament until their fifth season at the Division I level. This means NKU would need to find athletes who are content with not competing for a conference or national tournament title. During the first few years of the switch, it is too early to tell how the situation will affect the recruiting process.
“There’s more questions than answers at this time,” said NKU women’s head basketball coach Nancy Winstel. “I have no idea how it will affect recruiting. You obviously aren’t going to get players that are coming to your school just to compete for a national championship, but you can offer them the opportunity to play Division I sports.”
There are other post-season opportunities other than the NCAA Tournament. For instance, the basketball teams would still be able to compete in the National Invitational Tournament.
From a coach’s standpoint, Winstel doesn’t think the move will change her job tremendously.
“In coaching, you adapt and adjust to the situation that is presented to you, and that’s what I believe we’ll do,” Winstel said.
Athletic success is often used to define a university by spectators. Despite the pressure to excel immediately, Winstel believes that the athletic programs should not lose sight of the academic aspect.
“It cannot be a win at all cost, and hopefully we won’t become that type of institution,” Winstel said. “I certainly don’t believe that Dr. Votruba wants us to do that at all. We have to stay true to our mission, regardless of what division we are in.”
While competing against Division I teams will be tougher than what the Norse are used to, freshman golfer Coty Cantrell is looking forward to the challenge.
“Competition will be harder and we’ll have to practice harder,” Cantrell said. “I think we’ll be fine, though. I think we’re good enough to compete with whoever. If we set our minds to it, we can do anything we want.”
The conference the Norse end up in will have an affect on how successful the school can be at first; because if the conference doesn’t allow NKU to play in conference games, then the school will have to go out and find other teams to play on their own.
Despite not being able to play for a NCAA Tournament bid, Winstel still believes that the players have something to play for and have a chance to leave a lasting impression in NKU athletics.
“If you’re on the first team, people are going to talk about you years from now,” Winstel said. “It should be something that they are absolutely proud of because it is a new chapter in NKU history.”
Story by Stephen Wilder