Press Release for Thursday, October 14, 2004

Athletics Allowed to Pursue DI


Contact Sharon Ashton
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2115

Contact Tom Strother
Sports Information
(904) 620-4026


JACKSONVILLE -- The University of North Florida’s athletics programs can begin the process of reclassification from Division II to Division I within the NCAA after the University’s Board of Trustees approved the measure today. The official process will begin when UNF submits its formal application to the NCAA, which is due Dec. 1.

“Today’s vote by our Board of Trustees signals a turning point for the University,” UNF President John A. Delaney said. “This is the right time in the history of UNF to move to the highest division of college athletics.”

Carol Thompson, chair of the UNF Board of Trustees, said, “The board clearly feels UNF is ready to move to the next level. We’ve been studying this issue for nearly two years, and we strongly believe this is the right decision for the University.”

Once UNF submits its formal application to the NCAA, the University will begin an “exploratory” year, during which UNF must finalize its decision to move forward before June 30, 2005. The NCAA also requires a $15,000 application fee and the development of a strategic reclassification plan as part of the application process.

If the University chooses to continue with its reclassification following the exploratory period, it must notify the NCAA in writing before the June 30 deadline.

That confirmation will begin a four-year “transition” process for UNF, during which the school’s athletic teams will begin competition as a Division I program but will not be eligible for NCAA Division I national championship tournaments. The University’s first season as a full Division I member would be 2009-10.

“In any university’s development, there are landmark moments that define it as an institution, and I believe that UNF moving our athletics program to the highest competitive level is one of those moments,” UNF Athletics Director Dr. Richard Gropper said. “This move will give our athletics program the opportunity to advance and grow as never before, and it will provide our University with unprecedented exposure in the athletics arena. It is a proud day for UNF.”

During the four-year transition, UNF’s teams will be allowed to compete in a Division I conference.

The Division I Atlantic Sun Conference, which includes Jacksonville University and Stetson University, has expressed public interest in UNF. While no formal membership has been offered, an official invitation is likely within the next three months. A potential scenario exists that would allow UNF to begin competition in the A-Sun as soon as fall 2005.

UNF is a member of the Division II Peach Belt Conference, but it would withdraw its membership from the league once the Division I reclassification is final.

“We have been in contact with UNF as this move was considered, and we are very impressed with the people, the programs and the athletic facilities they have on their beautiful campus,” said Bill Bibb, commissioner of the Atlantic Sun Conference. “I believe they are ready to compete as a Division I institution.”

The school will remain eligible for all Peach Belt and Division II national championships in 2004-05.
UNF, which began its athletics programs in 1983 as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, has competed at the NCAA Division II level since 1992. The program began with cross country and track as its only sports but now houses 17 intercollegiate sports, including nine for women and eight for men. Two of UNF’s sports, men’s golf and women’s swimming and diving, already compete at the Division I level.

UNF squads have won four team national championships and 36 conference championships in the program’s 21-year history. In addition, UNF has captured the Peach Belt Commissioner’s Cup award, which annually honors the top overall athletics program in the conference, for five consecutive seasons.
For information on UNF’s athletics program, visit the University’s Web site at www.unf.edu.

Members of the media with questions should contact UNF Director of Media Relations Sharon Ashton at (904) 620-2115 or UNF Sports Information Director Tom Strother at (904) 620-4026.

-- UNF --