Four schools finally reach finish line

The D3 finish line, being crossed by the McMurry mascot
McMurry athletics photo

The provisional membership span to enter NCAA Division III is typically four years, preceded by a year as an exploratory member. For Alfred State, Illinois Tech, Iowa Wesleyan and McMurry, it took a little bit longer, but their full membership will start with the 2018-19 academic year. 

During the four-year provisional process, schools must demonstrate knowledge of and adherence to D-III rules, and must maintain the necessary minimum number of sports, with a minimum number of participants and minimum number of contests in each season. Often, schools have to add sports in order to meet Division III requirements, and schools who fall short early in the provisional process need to repeat a season. 

Alfred State logo Alfred State, which is a former two-year school, took five years in transition to NCAA Division III status. A public school with 3,445 full-time undergraduates as of its last public filing with the U.S. Department of Education, Alfred State offers 19 intercollegiate sports, with the Pioneers joining the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference in the fall of 2019. Alfred State football currently competes in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference and will continue to do so. 

We are excited and proud to officially become members of NCAA Division III," said Pioneers athletic director Jason Doviak. "This is an achievement that was accomplished based on the hard work and dedication of the athletic department staff and campus community. We feel that we are well prepared to continue providing our student-athletes with a well-rounded and successful college experience. Our student-athletes will now have an opportunity to compete in NCAA championships and also enhance our ability to attract future students to our campus."

Illinois Tech logo Illinois Tech, a private school in Chicago, has a full-time enrollment of 2,709. The school sponsors 17 sports, including baseball, which already aligns with the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Men's lacrosse will join the school's sports lineup this fall. The department will join the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference for all sports this fall

“When the decision to go D-III was made at Illinois Tech, we looked for the right fit institutionally," said athletic director Joe Hakes. "Many of our academic peers are D-III, and the student-athlete model is what we do. The Division will also provide stability for our programs and allow us to grow. We already are familiar with other D-III’s in the area so we are ready to go. We look forward to our new colleagues in the NACC.”

Iowa Wesleyan logo Iowa Wesleyan began the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III in the fall of 2012. The Tigers will sponsor 12 NCAA Division III sports with the addition of men's and women's cross country this fall.

"We are beyond excited to receive full membership status and move forward as an institution," said IWU athletic director Derek Zander. "We are extremely grateful for everyone on campus that has been involved in this transition. We also want to thank the NCAA for their guidance along the way and look forward to working with them as full members."

Iowa Wesleyan has 479 full-time undergraduates and is one of the smallest schools in the NCAA.

Meanwhile, McMurry's journey back into Division III only took four years, but that was preceded by a period in which the War Hawks transitioned out of Division III, starting in 2012. McMurry previously intended to move to Division II.

McMurry "Our mission of Developing Champions for Life is consistent with the Division III philosophy, so this is great news for McMurry University," athletic director Sam Ferguson said. "I'm thrilled for our scholar-athletes, coaches, and staff, as we are now eligible for NCAA championships for the first time in more than six years.
"The NCAA Division III staff has been fantastic during our transition; they have answered countless calls and were invaluable resources throughout the reclassification process. We are truly thankful for Jay Jones, Kristin DiBiase, Jean Orr, and many others on the staff who offered tremendous service. They all played tremendous roles in getting us to this point."
Beginning with the upcoming 2018-19 academic year, McMurry's 20-sport program will once again be eligible to participate in NCAA championships and all other full-member benefits. The declaration from the NCAA capped the long, and sometimes arduous, road back to the Division III fold for McMurry.

McMurry, in Abilene, Texas, had 932 full-time undergraduates as of the last government report. 

The additions bring the number of Division III member schools to 451.