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By CHASE HERNANDEZ
The last time the University competed at the NCAA Division I level, 68 percent of current students had not been born.
In August, the University made the announcement that the athletics program has returned to full Division I status and can officially compete in the NCAA tournament in every sport on campus.
It was 1990 when the Huskies last played in Division I, and coaches and players have welcomed the long-awaited return with open arms.
Many former players, some of whom now coach at the University, have fond memories of their playing days and think that the move back to full Division I status is a positive change for the entire University.
Head volleyball coach Kaddie Platt said she believes the transition could benefit the program in many ways.
“It’s great that we are back to the Division I status because now it puts HBU back on the map as a Division I school,” she said.
Platt, a standout volleyball player at the University from 1988-91, said she wanted to be a Husky because the school was a Division I institution at the time.
“I knew I was going to get a quality education, but the athletics program played a big role in my choice to come here,” Platt said.
Former basketball player Boone Almanza, who played from 1982-1985, was a part of the only team in school history to make it to the NCAA tournament in 1984.
Almanza said playing basketball at the University was a great experience filled with fond memories.
“Some of the best memories I have ever had came while I was playing at HBU, and I will never forget the friendships and relationships I made,” he said.
Aside from the lone appearance by the men’s basketball team at the NCAA tournament and a Division II women’s gymnastics national championship in 1990, most of the success has come from the NAIA level.
When the University shifted to the NAIA in the early 1990s, the athletics program took a major hit for a few years, including a one-year absence of men’s basketball. However, it took a short amount of time for not only men’s basketball but all sports to have success on the playing field.
Head baseball coach Jared Moon, who played from 1993-95, said transitioning from the NAIA back to the NCAA Division I level is substantial.
“For one, the game is much faster at this level,” Moon said. “The competition is better now, and we have to prove that we belong.”
When Moon played, his team still competed against other NCAA Division I schools, such as the University of Texas.
“We psyched ourselves up more to play Division I schools, and it helped us to keep that mentality all season when we played schools at the NAIA level,” he said.
Men’s basketball coach Ron Cottrell said now that the decision has been made to return to Division I, the coaches have enhanced recruitment efforts in order to build competitive teams.
Freshman basketball player Marcel Smith, a highly-touted point guard from Detroit, said Division I status played a major role in his college selection.
“It was important to know that I and the other freshman who came in would get a chance to play for and earn a berth to a national tournament during my college career,” he said.
Freshman volleyball player Jasmine Casey said she knows that she and the other freshmen coming in to the University this year have a chance to start a tradition of winning for the athletics program.
She added that it is an honor to be a part of the first freshman class that can compete in the postseason.
“Playing for a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament every year is one of the big reasons that convinced me to come here.”
The coaches said the opportunity to succeed at the highest level is now upon them and that they are eager to restore the University as a place of winning tradition.