Student athletes embrace Division I

When Northern Kentucky University transitioned from Division II to Division I it affected the university as a whole, however most athletes feel like nothing has really changed for them.
“The transition from Division II to Division I has been talked about since I was a freshman here,” Ethan Faulkner, senior on NKU’s men’s basketball team, said. “I always knew it was a possibility. It didn’t matter to me, but I am excited about the change.”
All athletes were given the warning last year that the transition might not happen. But, most seniors on the teams were recruited with the knowledge that they may become part of a Division I team while they were at the university.
“The athletes on our team were recruited with Division I in mind,” Kurt Young, assistant men’s basketball coach, said. “We knew if there was a transition, these players would be able to play Division I. We didn’t increase training or make them go through extra tryouts.”
Most teams will not be able to play in NCAA conference games and tournaments for at least four years, but will be able to compete in the National Invitation Tournament. One of the exceptions is the cross country and track teams at NKU.
“We get to compete in conferences as a team,” Kayla Justice, senior and team captain on the cross country team, said. “We’re ranked seventh in our conference out of 10 teams. We want to improve and we are striving to prove everyone wrong. We can only get better.”
Transitioning from Division II to Division I brings a lot of excitement from the coaches, fans, staff and students, especially the athletes.
“The most exciting part is the teams we get to play against now,” Faulkner said. “We can’t wait to go up to Ohio State and down to San Diego. Those are guys we’ve seen playing on television for years, and now those are the guys we are competing against.”
Being a student athlete has many pros and cons to it. They have to juggle classes, games, homework and practices.
“There’s a reason it’s called a student athlete; student comes first,” Justice said. “My advice is to take school and your sport seriously. We know if we don’t do well in the classroom, we won’t be able to participate in our sport.”
Recruitment rules and regulations have changed since the switch to Division I. Coaches have certain days they can recruit now and have three extra scholarships to give away for athletes, according to Young.
“We are demanding the same things that we always have from our players,” Young said. “We aren’t increasing practices. The rules say we can only practice 20 hours a week and that’s what we do. We always expected a lot from them. The seniors on our team are happy to begin the new history of NKU athletics.”