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The athletics program has been approved for full Division I membership in the NCAA, University administrators announced at a news conference on Saturday.
All University sports will begin competing in postseason tournaments with a chance to win the national championship in their respective sport.
President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and Steve Moniaci, director of athletics, made the official announcement on Saturday morning in front of numerous faculty and staff, alumni, student athletes and media outlets after learning of the NCAA’s decision on Friday.
“Nobody can say HBU can’t compete for a national championship anymore,” Moniaci said of the NCAA’s announcement, which marks the end of the University’s four-year journey to attain full membership in Division I. That journey formally began in 2007, when administrators submitted an application to the NCAA.
And while the NCAA’s announcement marks a major turning point for University athletics, Moniaci and Sloan were clear that there are several hurdles ahead. Upgrading facilities is the biggest challenge, Sloan said, adding that the University is working on a master plan to handle improving the current facilities as well as building other developments.
On the short list of things to do, Sloan said that adding lights to both baseball and softball fields is necessary now in addition to renovating Sharp Gym. He noted that the men’s and women’s basketball teams have the biggest need.
During his speech, Sloan thanked many faculty, staff, members of the board of trustees and alumni for all of their support and said without their help in this, it would not have been accomplished. ”It is a great sense of accomplishment for our University,” he said. “It is great to see HBU back on the map.”
The move to full membership in Division I should boost recruiting of top athletes, said men’s basketball coach Ron Cottrell. He said that he has already seen the impact on recruiting for not only the men’s basketball team, but also for all sports on campus. “We are now on an even playing field with all the other Division I schools to bring in athletes,” Cottrell said.
The crowd of student-athletes in attendance seemed excited about the prospect of playing for a spot in an NCAA tournament as well as a national title.
“It’s always been a dream to compete in the NCAA Tournament, and now we all finally can,” said senior volleyball player Jolie Graf, who joined many of her fellow student-athletes at the press conference.