JACKSON, Tenn. – July 11, 2014 – The NCAA membership committee has recommended Union University for active status – the culmination of a rigorous three-year membership process for Union’s transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
The NCAA’s management council will vote on the committee’s recommendation July 22. Approval from that council would be the final step in the membership process and would establish Union as a full member of NCAA Division II and the Gulf South Conference.
“We are grateful for the NCAA membership committee’s affirmation of the excellence of Union’s athletic programs which now gives Union the opportunity to fully compete in the Gulf South Conference as an active member of the NCAA Division II,” Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said. “I am deeply appreciative of our student athletes, coaches, athletic administration and each person across campus who played a part in getting us to this point. This is an important accomplishment for Union.”
Private institutions make up about 48 percent of NCAA Division II membership. A “life in the balance” model for member schools includes a firm commitment to academic pursuits for athletes, strict limits on practice time and an emphasis on off-campus community service.
Union began exploring NCAA membership in 2009 and filed its application in July 2011. The university started competing in the Gulf South during the 2012-2013 academic year but has been ineligible for NCAA national tournaments during the transition period.
Because Union was ineligible for postseason conference play during the transition, teams competed for championships in the National Christian College Athletic Association. Women’s softball and women’s basketball both won national championships with the NCCAA.
The first two years of the transition, Union was granted candidacy status. In year one, its teams continued to compete in the NAIA’s TranSouth Conference (which has since disbanded), but the university began to conform to NCAA reporting structure and other requirements. The university underwent a comprehensive self-study during which all aspects of Union’s mission were examined and evaluated. In year two, Union competed against a Gulf South schedule.
In July 2013, Union was among only nine institutions nationally that received approval for provisional status, during which the university was evaluated as if it were a full member of the NCAA.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated the amount of time and work required to navigate this three-year process,” said Jerry Tidwell, Union’s senior vice president for university relations and athletics. “There are a lot of people who worked very hard, but my greatest appreciation goes to our coaches. The changes and reporting required by them increased their work significantly, and I am grateful for them.”