The College of Staten Island has submitted a formal application to the NCAA for Division II membership effective for the 2019-20 athletic year. CSI president William J. Fritz made the announcement to cabinet members, faculty and staff, alongside athletic director Charles Gomes doing the same to athletics department staff and coaches. The application comes with an invitation for school to join the East Coast Conference (ECC), potentially becoming their 10th member institution.
If successful in joining Division II, Staten Island would be the second team to make the move for next year, joining Frostburg State University. Another Division III school, Benedictine, announced plans to join Division II before later abandoning them.
CSI’s intentions to reclassify comes on the heels of an exploratory phase that the college has been reviewing for several years and intensified this fall when the invitation from the ECC materialized, according to Fritz. CSI has officially submitted its application for NCAA Division II entry and the NCAA will render a decision for qualification by mid-July. If accepted, CSI will begin a three-year provisional period within Division II beginning in 2019-20.
The move would leave Staten Island's D-III conference, the City University of New York Athletic Conference, one team short of an automatic bid in men's tennis, women's tennis, women's soccer and softball. The CUNYAC would lose its automatic qualification in those sports starting in the 2021-22 season, unless it added schools or a current school added programs.
"Our move to NCAA Division II is something that our campus has been building up to for many years," said Fritz. "Since I've become president, I've had a vision of increasing the presence of athletic opportunities for our student-athletes on campus, and we've made an effort to bolster our athletic program through improved staffing, branding, strong academic discipline and the invigoration of school spirit through sport. All of the things that we have done has made it possible to take advantage of this opportunity when it came along."
There are currently 308 NCAA Division II institutions competing in 44 states and in Canada. If accepted, CSI will join fellow CUNY member, Queens College, as the only NCAA Division II institutions in the five New York City boroughs, and the only public NCAA Division II institutions in New York State. The ECC is comprised of public and private institutions. Currently, seven members are based in New York (Daemen, Mercy, Molloy, NYIT, Queens, Roberts Wesleyan, and St. Thomas Aquinas), while Bridgeport and the University of the District of Columbia are the out-of-state constituents.
There are currently 45 NCAA Division II institutions in the tri-state area and Pennsylvania.
If accepted in July, CSI would honor their 2019-20 competitive schedules, predominantly made up of CUNYAC and NCAA Division III competition. Their entry into ECC block scheduling and the adaptation to a full Division II schedule would occur in 2020-21. Fritz is highly encouraged by the school's progress and is excited for what the venture will do for both the athletics program and for the college as a whole.
"I'm very excited about this," said Fritz. "This is a way to achieve many of the marks in our strategic plan and it is also a chance to grow our athletics program and increase opportunity. Getting to interact with teams from a broadened regional and national landscape, our students will have more opportunities than they have now. I hope many people will appreciate that this is about the students and the student experience, and I couldn't be more excited about the venture."