USI Athletics Announces Agreement to Join Division I Conference
Well, that didn't take long.
Two days after the Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of reclassifying as a Division I school, the University of Southern Indiana announced Wednesday morning they had reached an agreement to join a new conference.
Because of their decision to move from Division II to Division I, the school would no longer be eligible to be a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) due to the fact it is exclusively a Division II conference. The Screaming Eagles have competed in that conference since joining it 43 years ago in 1979.
Back in November, Hendrix Magley with the Evansville Courier-Press reported the school's interest in reclassifying to Division I began when University president, Dr. Ronald Rochon, was contacted by a member of an unnamed conference about joining if they ever decided to make the jump from D-II to D-I. News of the conversation appeared in the minutes of the school's faculty senate meeting.
The New Conference Is...
The school will remain in the GLVC through the remainder of the current academic year and will begin competing as a Division I school beginning in the Fall as the newest member of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
The conference also includes the following schools:
- Austin Peay State University
- Belmont University
- Eastern Illinois University
- Morehead State University
- Murray State University
- Southeast Missouri State University
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- Tennessee State University
- Tennessee Technological University
- University of Tennessee at Martin
The OVC has conducted its conference basketball tournament at the Ford Center the past few years and will do so again this year.
With the new affiliation, USI can now file the formal application with the NCAA to reclassify as a Division I school. However, due to NCAA reclassification rules, the school's athletic programs will be under a four-year probationary period and will not be able to compete for NCAA Championships during that time. According to Ryan Reynolds with the Evansville Courier-Press, they will be able to compete in their conference tournaments if the conference allows it.
While they won't be able to compete in an event like March Madness, they will be eligible to compete in other non-NCAA-sanctioned tournaments. In his article, Reynolds notes as an example the University's former rival, Bellarmine, who reclassified as a D-1 school in 2020, was allowed to compete in the 2021 College Basketball Invitational.
So, while we'll have to wait a while to see them try and compete for national championships in their respective sports, the fact they'll get the opportunity to start playing against other Division I programs later this year is exciting.