USI Announces It Will Move to Division I
A decision months in the making was announced publicly on Monday when the University of Southern Indiana Board of Trustees voted on whether to move the school athletics to Division I or remain Division II.
The decision was live-streamed through the USI Carter Hall YouTube Channel at 1:00 PM. After an opening statement from the Board's Chairperson, Ronald D. Romain, each member of the board was given a chance to vote in favor of or against the move. In a process that took less than two minutes, the Board unanimously voted in favor of moving to Division I.
However, just because the decision was made doesn't mean they are automatically a Division I school. They must file formal paperwork with the NCAA and apply for the move.
What This Means for USI Athletics
For the various sports and the student-athletes who participate in them, it first and foremost means a step up in the level of competition they'll face once the move is approved. It will also mean that for the first time since 1979, USI will no longer be a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, as that conference is strictly for Division II schools.
It may not take long to find a new home. As Hendrix Magley with the Evansville Courier-Press reported back in early November, the school was approached with an invitation by more than one Division I conference if they ever decided to make the jump. The conferences that extended the invites were not named in the report.
Once they've been accepted by a D-1 conference, they will file the formal paperwork with the NCAA to reclassify as a Division I school.
One new home possibility, and let me be perfectly clear, this is pure speculation on my part, could be the ASUN Conference which includes schools similar in size to USI from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Florida. One of which is their former long-time rival, Bellarmine University in Louisville who was a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference before they made the jump to Division 1 at the start of the 2020-21 season. That conference currently does not include any teams from Indiana.
Other possibilities could include (and again, this is me just spitballing), the Ohio Valley Conference which has hosted its conference tournament at the Ford Center over the past few years and will do so again in 2022, or one intriguing idea would be the Missouri Valley Conference which would put them in the same conference as the University of Evansville.
To put things into perspective, wherever they land, it means both the men's and women's basketball teams would eventually have the chance at playing in the NCAA Division I Tournament in March every year if they won their conference tournament, or were selected as an at-large team by the selection committee.
I say, "eventually," because if the NCAA grants the request, all USI teams would begin competing as Division I teams at the start of the 2022-23 season. However, NCAA reclassification rules state that while they can compete for their conference championships in all sports, they are placed in a reclassification transition period for four years and would not be eligible to compete for NCAA Championships during that time. That means the soonest the basketball teams would be eligible for March Madness would be the 2026-27 season.
According to the Northern Kentucky University's independent student news organization, The Northerner, the purpose of the reclassification period is to all the new school the ability to "demonstrate a continuing commitment to meet Division I standards, both in athletics and academics."
So, while we will have to wait a while to see the Screaming Eagles have the opportunity to play for an NCAA Division I Championship in any one of the sports they offer, knowing they will get that opportunity is exciting to think about.
For more on the move, including the costs of moving to D-I and how they plan to pay for those costs, check out the school's official press release.
[Source: USI / Evansville Courier-Press / The Northerner]