JACKSON, Tenn. – July 11, 2011 – Union University will officially begin the process toward membership in the Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II.
NCAA representatives notified Union President David S. Dockery in a telephone call July 11 that Union had been approved by the NCAA Division II membership committee for candidacy status.
The NCAA’s approval begins a three-year process of transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. During the first year, Union’s athletic teams still hope to compete in the NAIA’s TranSouth Athletic Conference and will be eligible to compete in NAIA national tournaments.
The next two years, Union will move to competition in the Gulf South Conference and the NCAA Division II but will not be eligible for NCAA national tournaments. Union’s 2012-2013 athletic schedules will include Gulf South Conference members such as the University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of North Alabama, Christian Brothers University, Delta State University, Valdosta State University and the University of West Florida, among others.
The Gulf South Conference unanimously endorsed Union’s application for NCAA Division II membership process.
“We are so very pleased that the NCAA has opened the door for Union University to move forward with the membership process, which will allow Union to compete with NCAA Division II institutions,” Union President David S. Dockery said. “We are grateful for the wonderful support that we have received from the Gulf South Conference commissioner and member institutions. The Union community is quite hopeful for good days ahead for our coaches, student-athletes and fans.”
Nate Salant, commissioner of the Gulf South Conference, congratulated Union on the announcement from the NCAA.
“We are gigantically pleased, there's no other way to say it,” Salant said. “This comes as no surprise to the Gulf South Conference, because Union University was a great candidate, possibly among the best ever for admission into Division II. We hope this is the start of a very long, successful, exciting relationship.”
Union has been considering the possibility of an alignment change since 2009 and officially applied to the NCAA in May. Dockery said Union fits well with NCAA Division II and its commitment to the student-athlete, its “life in the balance” expectations for member institutions and Division II’s desire for institutions to be involved in off-campus community service.
Private institutions make up about 48 percent of NCAA Division II membership.
“The transition to NCAA Division II has been careful and deliberate,” said Jerry Tidwell, Union’s senior vice president for university relations. “The opportunity to compete at the NCAA Division II level generally, and in the Gulf South Conference specifically, opens doors to many new relationships for our coaches, student-athletes and entire Union family.”
To comply with NCAA regulations, Union has named Gary Williams as its NCAA compliance officer and Katie Woodruff as senior woman administrator. Dockery expressed appreciation to Williams and Woodruff for their dedication to the work of Union University. He also communicated gratitude to Tidwell, Provost Carla Sanderson, Athletic Director Tommy Sadler and key staff members for their leadership in this process.
Dockery said Union will also consider the addition of new sports in the future, such as women’s golf. Union currently offers 10 sports, which meets the requirements of NCAA Division II.