The road to D-I

Northern Kentucky University is planning to make a move to Division I, but that will only be possible if a conference invites them.

However, NKU athletic director Scott Eaton said he likes NKU’s chances of making it happen.

“We are very confident that our application will be accepted and that we will receive a bona fide invitation,” Eaton said.

In fact, Eaton looks for the university to be accepted into a conference before the year ends.

“We have been working very hard to align with such a conference and, as Dr. Votruba had alluded to, we hope to have some type of announcement to make before the end of the semester,” Eaton said.

Many students, including Edward Morris, a senior biology major, think that the move would be a good idea.

“I think that since NKU is absolutely on the top of the division consistently, the only way to improve is to start dealing with a more competitive environment, and that’s Division I,” Morris said.

Eaton said that once NKU has an invitation from a D-I conference, they can formally submit their application to the NCAA. The application must be submitted by June 1, 2012, to begin the reclassification process during the 2012-13 academic year. If successful, the university will spend the next four years (2012-16) as a provisional D-I member, meaning the university will be considered a temporary member until it becomes official.

After finishing the 2011-12 school year as a member of the GLVC and NCAA D-I, they would begin playing a D-I schedule in 2012-13.

In Fall Convocation, President Votruba said the switch will enhance every aspect of the university, not just athletics. He said it’s about branding and positioning NKU with other schools they have more in common with.

“From the very beginning, this has been an institutional endeavor and we have involved individuals from every division and area at NKU,” Eaton said. “With this being a full institutional decision, we seek to associate with a set of peer institutions that align with our aspirations and core values.”

Men’s basketball head coach Dave Bezold said he believes that D-I is something NKU is ready for, and not just its athletics department.

“Everything is ready to make it to the next level,” Bezold said. “This university is so young, and it’s growing at the right time. President Votruba did not fast-forward this when we couldn’t handle it. He has grown the university at a very good rate that allows you to do a number of things without getting ahead of yourself, and this is one of them.”

Bezold knows the conference will be important, but he realizes that the Norse may not be there permanently.

“A lot of times the conference you start in will not always be the one you end up in,” Bezold said. “The landscape of college athletics is changing so much.”

Bezold said he hopes the transition will provide a number of regional rivalries that the students and alumni will attend.

“What’s happening now is that we have to go from here to Kansas City, and people just aren’t going to make those trips. If we’re fortunate enough to get into a conference that has nice cities and reasonable drives, it’s really going to be exciting for all of our sports.”

Possible conference options are the Atlantic Sun, the Horizon League, the Ohio Valley Conference and the Summit League, which were suggested by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics in NKU’s 2010 Feasibility Study. The study determined that the Horizon League would be the best fit for NKU.

John Minor contributed to this story.