Pursuing NCAA Division I Status

Controlling Our Own Destiny

The Division II Landscape

Whether Division I or Division II, there was only one certainty: UNA could not stay status quo. It’s simply not been in the cards. Why not? Because the Division II landscape has changed significantly in the recent past. UNA has fewer and fewer peer schools in Division II and the Gulf South Conference. For example, six Arkansas universities, all with football teams, announced plans to leave the Gulf South Conference. Division II schools, especially in the southeast, are becoming fewer and farther away from the Shoals area. Currently, there are only five Division II universities within a 3.5-hour radius of UNA, in comparison to 20 Division I universities in that same radius.

From a financial standpoint, this means that even remaining in Division II would become increasingly expensive due to increased travel. It would require student-athletes to spend more time on the road and less time in the classroom, thereby negatively impacting their academic performances. In addition, UNA, in recent years, has started paying significant guarantees to secure Division II opponents to meet NCAA scheduling requirements.

University Vision of Excellence and Growth

UNA’s transition to Division I is more than a move up for Lion athletics. It’s part of a comprehensive UNA vision of excellence and growth.

UNA will be a busy place the next few years, but not just because of the Division I transition. UNA will also move forward with the construction of a new science and technology center, a new academic center and student commons, and the opening our new black-box theatre, which is already under construction. We’ll renovate and upgrade our student living facilities to make this campus the best home away from home possible. Academic resources campus-wide will be put toward the achievement of top-tier, premier-level marks of distinction. And while all this is going on, the university will begin a strategic enrollment growth plan, designed to continue the staggering growth the university has experienced in the past six years (from fewer than 5,000 students to more than 7,000).

Economic Impact

According to a 2007 study by the Center of Public Policy and Economic Research (COPPER), UNA employee and student spending accounted for a $131.2 million annual economic impact on the Lauderdale and Colbert county economies. An additional economic impact of $17.6 million is expected if UNA experiences the average 11 percent enrollment growth experienced by other universities during their transitions from Division II to Division I.

The enrollment growth would also mean a positive impact of about $4.8 million for UNA, which will help enhance the quality of academic programming and student life, while adding the accommodations necessary for the increased enrollment.

The other two Alabama universities that have made the Division I transition in recent years – Jacksonville State University and Alabama A&M University, experienced growth of 20 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

Financing the Move

UNA’s successful transition to Division I will mean increasing its current annual athletics budget by $3.4 million. The $3.4 million increase will be phased-in over a six-year period through six primary funding sources: new private donations of $500,000 each year, as well as gradual increases in new corporate donations, game guarantees, ticket sales, NCAA academic and enhancement funds, and a student athletics fee.

After listening carefully to financial concerns from UNA students, faculty, and staff, the university board and administration revised its initial financial plan to ensure the Division I transition does not compromise academic funding or place an undue financial burden on students. As a result of students making their voices heard, the athletics fee will be phased-in over a six-year period and will be capped, not to exceed $8 per credit hour. Institutional funding to athletics operating budget will also be capped as to not to exceed 4 percent of the E&G budget. The 2011-12 tuition increase does not go to assist in the transition to Division I.

Required Benchmarks

The resolution passed by the UNA board of trustees requires that the university meet each of the following benchmarks before applying to the NCAA Division I.

NCAA Requirements

That the University of North Alabama fulfill all requirements of the NCAA for membership in Division I.

Cap Spending

That the University of North Alabama cap its total operational expenditures in athletics to an amount not to exceed 4.0% of the total University Education and General (E&G) budget.

Financial Pledges

That the University of North Alabama secure financial pledges of at least $3 million committed over a period of five years beginning in June, 2012. This includes a D1 application fee of $1.42 million.

Phased in Student Fees

That the University of North Alabama develop a phased plan for student fee increases not to exceed a maximum of $8 per enrolled hour.

Community Involvement

That the Shoals community, through its government, business and civic leadership, indicate support for this undertaking by the University of North Alabama

Steve Pierce, UNA president pro tempore

UNA’s growth these past six years has been phenomenal – for the university and for the Shoals community. Each of us in the Shoals community is benefiting from what has happened on this campus,” Pierce said. “If this university can grow in similar ways over the next six years, just imagine where we’ll be.

Steve Pierce, UNA president pro tempore
William G. Cale, Jr., UNA President

This is an exciting time in the history of UNA - a time of growth and momentum, for academics, for student life and for athletics. As we move forward with the board’s decision today, I am excited about our future. We have a plan to move ahead strategically and to build upon our very successful athletics program.

William G. Cale, Jr., UNA President
Mark Linder, Director of Athletics

In my four years at UNA, I’ve gotten to know the people and the programs of this university very well – from athletics to academics to student life and beyond. I’ve learned about the incredible history of this institution, and I’ve seen where this institution is going, aside from athletics. This is already a Division I-caliber university. This transition we are now embarking on will just make it official.

Mark Linder, Director of Athletics

The Facts

  • The Division I transition will take six-years.
  • The transition requires an additional $3.4 million to UNA’s current annual athletics budget.
  • Six primary funding sources will be used: new private donations of $500,000 annually, as well as gradual increases in new corporate donations, game guarantees, ticket sales, NCAA academic and enhancement funds, and a student athletics fee.
  • The student athletics fee will be phased in over a six-year period and will be capped at $8 per credit hour.
  • Institutional funding for athletics will be capped at 4 percent of the institutional budget to protect funding for academic programming.
  • Tuition increases were not caused by this decision. Increases in tuition are to keep strong academic programs and services.
  • The Division I transition is part of a university-wide plan for building and growth.
  • Eleven percent is the average enrollment increase for universities during their first five years of transition from Division II to Division I.
  • Increased enrollment of 11 percent would bring an additional $17.6 million/year to the Shoals economy.
  • Increased enrollment of 11 percent would generate additional revenue in the amount of $4.8 million/year to UNA. These additional resources may be used to enhance the quality of academic programming and student life, while adding the accommodations necessary for the increased enrollment.

Our Division I Timeline

Academic Year Reclassification Year NCAA Competition Status
2011-12 Current Year
  • Development of Strategic Plan for May 20, 2011 Retreat
  • June 13, 2011 vote for intent to transition to Division I
  • Start 5 year fundraising campaign for NCAA reclassification
  • Add (2) women’s sport
2012-13 Next Year
  • May 1st is deadline to withdraw from the Gulf South Conference
  • Eligible for NCAA Division II post season competition
  • Last year of membership in Gulf South Conference
2013-14 YEAR ONE
of reclassification
  • Submit NCAA application and fee prior to June 1, 2013
  • Increase scholarships
  • Not eligible for Division II competition
  • Schedule Gulf South Conference and Division I teams
2014-15 YEAR TWO
of reclassification
  • Not eligible for Division I post-season competition in all sports
  • Division I "counter" for scheduling purposes as of 2014-15 (and thereafter)
  • Division I RPI institution as of 2014-15 (and thereafter)
  • Division I minimum scheduling requirements must be met as of 2014-15 (and thereafter)
2015-16 YEAR THREE
of reclassification
  • Not eligible for Division I post-season competition
2016-17 YEAR FOUR
of reclassification
  • Not eligible for Division I post-season competition
2017-18 NCAA DIVISION I MEMBER
  • Eligible for Division I post-season competition in ALL SPORTS

Get All the Details Here

UNA Board Approves Resolution Press Release

Download & view the complete Resolution of Intent

D1 Powerpoint Presentation Slides

Watch the Press Conference in its entirety

An open letter to our Alumni from Brad Holmes

UNA Division I Article in the USA Today