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July 14, 2004

Many Programs Seek To Move Up In Classification

FROM THE ‘BIGGER IS BETTER’ MINDSET comes one college program after another expressing a desire to move up in the world.

Such decisions affect a wide group of interested constituencies—alumni, boosters, fans, politicians, trustees, regents, faculty—most of whom have traditionally been favorable for their program to move up in the world. After all, the appeal of the perceived prestige and glory of a higher classification can be a significant lure.

When the jump is from D2 to D1, however, there have been a few programs that have overreached without being quite ready. Quickly coming to mind is the sad case of Gardner-Webb University. Only three years after moving up to Division I, the school now finds itself on a three year probation due to a lack of institutional control.

To be sure, many schools have taken a measured, deliberate approach with regard to the feasibility of moving up in classification. Many engage the services of consultants to advise them in the process. Three schools preparing to move up to Division I—North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Florida A & M—have been carefully weighing the pros and cons.

The North Dakota State upgrade is especially interesting. North Dakotans are a resilient and proud populace. The state has historically endured a conspicuous lack of notoriety and fame. In the sports world, it has been decades since NoDak’s Roger Maris put the state on the map. More recently, the University of North Dakota has made quite a splash in Division I hockey, with two Frozen Four titles and a runner-up over the past seven years.

To be sure, many schools have used athletics as the lynchpin of a strategy to propel their institution—and sometimes their entire state—into the upper echelon of Division I. North Dakota State is not breaking new ground here. The University of Connecticut pulled that off pretty well over the past decade.

Upgrading to Division I is no easy proposition. But NDSU and the other schools have astutely observed the challenges of those who have preceded them. Their deliberate approach will likely lead to a successful transition into Division I.
Who knows? Maybe someday every school will be Division I.

(this 368 word excerpt—with related commentary—was extracted from a 1680 word article in the July 2004 issue of Athletics Business and a 890 word article in The [Fargo ND] Forum of 5-12-04)