D-I: Directors explain both sides of move

As Northern Kentucky University prepares to make the switch to Division I, athletic directors from other current D-I schools say that NKU may face challenges while reaping the rewards of being a premiere institution.
The University of South Dakota Coyotes made the transition to D-I in 2008 by joining the Great West Conference, then, switched to the Summit League in the fall of 2011.

David Herbster, senior associate athletic director at USD, said the positive impacts, such as regional and nationwide exposure, have been tremendous for the institution.

“I can’t tell you that there is a direct correlation with our moving to D-I and our admissions process, but for the last three years, not only have our admissions to the university increased every single year, our enrollment has increased as well,” Herbster said.
Herbster said he thinks there has been a far-reaching effect from the move. For example, after the Coyotes beat the University of Minnesota in football last year, USD saw a 50 percent increase in applicants from the state of Minnesota.
Herbster said athletes are actually performing better academically and that their grade point average has gone up to a 3.19.
“The student athletes themselves have really sold the program more so than anything we’ve done,” Herbster said. “They continue to improve and impress.”

The connection with alumni has increased as well because USD is playing nationally instead of just regionally, Herbster said.
“From an alumni association standpoint, there has been a better connection and a better reason for our folks to rally,” Herbster said.
Herbster said one of the negative challenges that came out of the move was that students, fans and alumni were used to the Coyotes playing the same schools, and now they are not facing those schools anymore.
“I think the re-education process of our fan base and our alumni is going to be ongoing,” Herbster said. “That was something we had to work harder on.”

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne made the switch to D-I in 2001, after it left the Great Lakes Valley Conference. IPFW later joined the Summit League in 2007.
Tim Heffron, associate athletics director at IPFW, said one of the immediate impacts NKU will have to face is that all of the sports are now under D-I rules.

“It affects eligibility of student athletes and affects your finishing out of Division II,” Heffron said. “We didn’t even get to participate in GLVC championships.”
NCAA rules prohibit teams from competing in the NCAA Tournament until their fifth season at the Division I level.
Heffron said IPFW had to declare a number of student athletes ineligible immediately after they made the switch because their clock ran out.

“In Division II there is a 10 semester rule, and in D-I it’s a clock,” Heffron said. “There is just a whole host of intricate variables that affect everybody.”

There is also a requirement of spending a lot more scholarship dollars on your kids than there is in D-II, according to Heffron.
“Kids are obviously getting more money, which is a positive for them but maybe a negative for the university, because it has to spend a lot more money to be D-I,” Heffron said.

NKU will have to pay $1.4 million to the NCAA just to join D-1and pay a conference fee depending on what conference invitation the university receives.

Heffron said that a simple thing like an NCAA audit could also be a difficult process.
“When you are D-I you have to do it,” Heffron said. There is a lot of time, work and money spent on that every year with external and internal auditors.

Heffron said that overall it has been a positive move for IPFW, but if it was broken down into different areas, it could be positive or negative depending on who is asking.

“Look at IPFW when we were D-II; we were kind of in the same boat as Northern Kentucky, and same conference,” Heffron said. “Everything about our programs was pretty equal, with the one exception that we had men’s volleyball.”
Tommy Bell, IPFW athletic director, said NKU has great facilities and that it is going to be a positive move for NKU.
“It’s not going to be roses, but it will get better with time,” Bell said.