Following a year and a half of intensive study of its athletics programs, Trevecca Nazarene University is poised to pursue membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division II level.
The head of the university stressed that no final decision has been made but he confirmed that Trevecca is prepared to submit an application as early as June.
“We’re trying to be careful,” president Dr. Dan Boone said Tuesday. “There really isn’t an announcement to be made that Trevecca is going NCAA D-II, but we really are in a serious, serious phase of looking to make sure that it’s the right move for us.”
The pursuit of membership in NCAA Division II is the recommendation of former Vanderbilt basketball coach and Kentucky athletics director C.M. Newton, who has conducted the athletics review and continues to serve as a consultant for the process.
Last month, the university’s board of trustees gave its approval for an application to be filed.
Not long after, Trevecca announced that it would add men’s and women’s cross country teams this fall, which brought to 11 the number of varsity programs in the athletics department. The minimum requirement for NCAA Division II affiliation is 10 varsity teams.
“One of the things C.M. has encouraged us to do is to explore Division II membership,” Boone said. “So, while we’ve not made application yet, we’re reviewing our entire athletic program to see what kinds of things might be necessary for that.
“We’re writing the strategic plan based on Coach Newton’s work with us. One of the outcomes we wanted was a strategic plan that talked about where Trevecca athletics ought to be over the next decade. So we’re working hard on that. The work on that would certainly support an application to D-II, but we’ve not completed that application.”
According to NCAA regulations, a strategic plan is required as part of the application process.
The next deadline for application is June 1. Another one is set for December 1.
If approved, a college or university must go through a period of provisional membership before it is eligible for full membership.
“As we did our exploration what we discovered was that the scholarship levels we are currently offering are pretty well even with a couple of the conferences that we might potentially join, or if we were part of the formation of a new conference in the NCAA in the Middle Tennessee area then we could establish our own,” Boone said. “So we’re not that far off in terms of the scholarship investment in the program. Coach Newton also told us that our facilities were well in line with what most schools our size in D-II had.”
Trevecca is the last of the local universities affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Currently, its teams compete in the TranSouth Athletic Conference, of which it was a founding member in 1996.
Belmont and Lipscomb competed in the NAIA before they moved to NCAA Division I.
Boone noted that Trevecca’s classification as a national research institution and its faith-based approach are more consistent with NCAA institutions.
“The kinds of things that we would seek to do would be to establish or to join a conference of like-minded schools … more faith-based universities, more schools that are close to us in size and similar mission,” he said. “…The level of academic stringency that’s rooted in the NCAA is much more in keeping with schools that are national research universities.
“It’s a holistic question for us. Should we be seeking to compete athletically with schools who’s academic requirements are exceptionally strong, like ours are?”
At this point he’s not prepared to offer a definitive answer.
“We want to be cautious and careful,” he said “By the middle of May, we ought to know for certain that we’re either going to submit an application during the summer, in December or not at all.
“All of those are still options that are open to us. … We’re trying to focus on the strategic plan at the moment and not get affiliation ahead of the plan.”