Florence, Ala. – The University of North Alabama board of trustees today voted unanimously to approve a revised plan for the university’s transition into the NCAA Division I. The plan is one that “provides a unified approach that will be vital to the advancement of the entire university,” said Dr. William G. Cale Jr., UNA president.
The revised plan includes a modest extension of the transition timeline while ensuring fundraising success for athletics as well as academics and all university programming. UNA currently competes in the Gulf South Conference of the NCAA Division II.
The university will makes its official transition into Division I no earlier than summer 2014, according the revised transition plan. UNA officially began its pursuit of Division I status 15 months ago, following the board’s approval of a resolution of intent June 13, 2011. The board’s June 2011 resolution did not specify a deadline for the Division I move.
The approval of the revised transition plan does not dissolve the June 2011 resolution but, rather, adds clarification and provides “a plan that everyone can unite behind,” Cale said. “It will enhance our financial position, ensuring that we start the transition with no accumulated debt. But the plan’s greatest strength is that it ensures the fundraising success of athletics as well as academics, student life and all other university programs.”
UNA athletics director Mark Linder said the plan’s approval made today “a great day for the University of North Alabama. The unification this plan creates will be key not only to our DI transition but to the success of our entire university.”
The UNA board’s June 2011 resolution established five benchmarks to be met before the Division I transition could occur. Each of the benchmarks is also detailed in the plan approved today. Among the benchmarks is the securing of at least $3 million to be pledged over a five-year period beginning in June 2012. To date, $2.8 million has been given or pledged.
Benchmarks also include the gradual growth of the student athletics fee to no more than $8 per enrolled hour while capping institutional funding for athletics at 4 percent of the total university education and general budget.
While these financial plans ensure the complete funding of the DI transition by the end of the five-year transition cycle, the university’s incurring of debt during that cycle has been likely, Cale said. “But this revised plan adjusts our timeline in a way that all debt is avoided and that we make this move in the most financially responsible way possible.”
The UNA board’s June 2011 resolution also states the university must complete all NCAA requirements for Division I membership and garner support from the Shoals community.
This spring, UNA athletics met the NCAA Division I requirement of sponsoring at least 14 athletic teams by adding women’s indoor and outdoor track. All five of the benchmarks set by the UNA board will be met upon the university’s receipt and acceptance of an NCAA Division I conference invitation.
Courtesy UNA Media Relations