Much to the dismay of officials and students at Spring Hill College, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has again denied the Badgers full acceptance into Division II competition.
On July 14, the Division II membership committee notified SHC President Christopher P. Puto it will not recommend to the NCAA Division II Management Council that the Badgers be allowed to advance to full membership. This came despite the group saying it was impressed by the Jesuit school’s compliance program and enhancements to its athletics department.
The sole reason cited by the membership committee was SHC’s current accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SHC is currently in a 12-month probation by SACS’s Commission on Colleges because of financial instability.
By December, SACS will decide to reaffirm or not to reaffirm SHC’s accreditation. While SHC is currently accredited, SACS has yet to reaffirm it for the next 10 years.
“Naturally, we are disappointed with the recommendation of the membership committee. However, we understand the rationale for the decision,” Puto said. “As a college, we remain optimistic for a positive outcome through the management council’s review process.”
This is not the first setback for SHC’s trek to move beyond the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In what was scheduled to be a three-year process, the NCAA asked the Badgers to repeat Candidacy Year Two to give new campus personnel with direct compliance responsibilities adequate time to get up to speed with NCAA requirements.
Then, in 2016, the membership committee ruled SHC had successfully completed the second phase and recommended advancement to Provisional Membership. This phase was completed during the previous school year.
Hope is not lost that the decision can be overturned. The recommendation of the membership committee must still be reviewed and voted upon by the Division II Management Council, which has the option to either approve or overturn the membership committee’s recommendation.
If the council approves the committee’s recommendation, SHC has the option of pursuing an appeal of the council’s decision.
This ruling would be crucial to Spring Hill College’s future. A news release concerning the NCAA’s decision states: “The committee voted to remove Emmanuel [Georgia] and Spring Hill from the membership process. Both schools previously had been required to repeat one year of the three-year process, which is the maximum permitted by Division II legislation. If a school cannot complete the membership requirements within the established timeline, it is removed from the process and must wait one year to reapply.”
The SHC community now must wait for the management council to rule.
“For the sake of our student-athletes, I am hopeful the management council’s review will lead to a decision that allows us to move forward towards full membership,” said Jim Hall, director of athletics. “If the membership committee’s recommendation is approved, we will carefully consider our options and develop a plan for an appeal of the decision.”
If the committee’s recommendation ultimately stands, SHC’s 16 varsity athletic programs would continue to play full schedules of NCAA Division II, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Gulf South Conference competition during the 2017-18 regular seasons, as these schedules have been finalized. However, SHC teams would not be eligible for conference championships or NCAA postseason play.
While the news from the membership committee wasn’t good for Spring Hill, several other schools were approved for full membership, including California State University-San Marcos, Concordia (California), Concordia Portland, Embry-Riddle (Florida) and Oklahoma Baptist University. They can now compete in conference and NCAA postseason events effective Sept. 1. This brings the number of colleges and universities in Division II to 308.
The committee also recommended the progression of five other schools working through the process. Westminster (Utah) was approved to begin the third year of the membership process, while Auburn-Montgomery, Biola, Davenport and Purdue Northwest were approved to begin the second year.