UNA to Develop Strategic Plan for Athletics

Mar. 14, 2011


FLORENCE, Ala. – While not taking a vote on a potential move to NCAA Division I athletics, the University of North Alabama board of trustees subcommittee on athletics announced today the next step in its assessment of the feasibility of such a move. Having listened to concerns about such a move from students, faculty, staff and others, the subcommittee will work to develop a strategic plan that addresses financial issues and other concerns that have been expressed. While the president and a majority of the subcommittee agree that the future of UNA athletics should be at the Division I level, the feasibility and desirability of a move to Division I of the NCAA at this time will be the focus of this examination.

“The board recognizes that the burden for such a move cannot be borne solely by our students, nor can funds be redirected from academic programs to athletics,” said Steve Pierce, board president pro tempore. “We must, therefore, approach this from a perspective that ensures success while addressing the important fiscal issues facing the university.”

The future of UNA athletics has been intensely examined over the past year. The pending departure of six universities from the Gulf South Conference this coming summer highlighted the need to examine UNA’s options and reach a conclusion that best serves the long-term interests of the university and its athletic program.

“Developing a strategic plan with benchmark goals prior to finalizing any decision is the right way to continue,” said Dr. William G. Cale Jr., UNA president. “This recognizes that the benefits that can follow from a move to Division I will be realized only if the right conditions are in place prior to any transition.

“The most critical issue in my mind is developing a financial plan that can be successfully implemented,” Cale continued. “We should move ahead only after we are secure in the knowledge that we are on solid financial ground.”

“Donor support is an essential element for any successful transition,” said Alan Medders, vice president for university advancement. “The proposed plan must identify specific goals from external sources, and those goals must be realized before action is undertaken.”

“To move to Division I or remain in Division II is a decision that impacts the entire university and the Shoals area,” said Mark Linder, director of UNA athletics. “The planning process is the best mechanism to vet the final decision and ensure the future for UNA athletics.”

Pierce indicated that development of the draft plan would be coordinated by the board subcommittee already in place for assessing the future of UNA athletics (Billy Don Anderson, Ronnie Flippo, Rodney Howard, Steve Pierce and Libby Watts-Jordan) with assistance from UNA administration and others as appropriate. That draft will be discussed at a board retreat, to be held in May at a date and time not yet determined. Action on the plan is anticipated at an annual meeting of the trustees in June.

“All the research shows that the most common reason a transition to Division I athletics fails is poor financial planning. We must be certain that UNA avoids that shortcoming,” said Rodney Howard, chair of the board’s Finance Committee.

The next meeting of the UNA board of trustees is schedule for June 13.