To the surprise of many local sports fans, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has notified Spring Hill College President Christopher Puto, Ph.D., that the Badgers have been granted an additional year within the provisional period during the 2017-18 academic year.
On July 14, the Division II Membership Committee notified SHC it would 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 Spring Hill’s current accreditation status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). According to an earlier report by the college, SHC is currently in a 12-month probation period by the SACS Commission on Colleges because of financial instability. By this coming December, SACS will decide whether to reaffirm or not reaffirm the school’s accreditation. While Spring Hill currently does have its accreditation, SACS had yet to reaffirm it for the next 10 years.
In July, SHC and Emmanuel College in Georgia were removed from the membership process. The NCAA at that time said, “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.”
With the latest reprieve from the NCAA, Spring Hill will now continue its status as a provisional member of Division II for another year as the college works to complete its membership transition.
“Gaining full Division II membership — our ultimate goal — will be the culmination of years of outstanding work by coaches, administration and campus-wide colleagues on behalf of our student-athletes,” Puto said. “Because of their diligent work, our student-athletes and the SHC community as a whole are now positioned for an exceptional intercollegiate athletic experience for decades to come.”
SHC has faced other setbacks in its move from being a member of 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 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.
During the 2017-18 academic year, the 16 SHC varsity athletic programs making the transition will continue to play full slates of Division II conference and nonconference regular season competition, but remain ineligible for NCAA or conference post-season competition.
“I am very happy for our student-athletes and athletic staff who have worked diligently over the last four years of our membership transition,” SHC Director of Athletics Jim Hall said. “We are thrilled to be given the opportunity to finish what we started and continue the positive momentum our transition to the NCAA has generated.”
According to a news release from the school, SHC will undergo a Compliance Blueprint Review conducted by the NCAA this fall and submit an annual membership report to the Division II Membership Committee prior to June 1, 2018. At that point, the membership committee will review the annual report along with the results of the compliance review, then vote on whether to advance SHC to active membership status for the 2018-19 academic year.
Active status signals the completion of SHC’s membership transition process and would allow the school to begin participating in conference and NCAA post-season competition. Spring Hill currently plays some sports in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and others in the Gulf South Conference.
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• The men’s soccer team for Spring Hill shocked eighth-ranked University of Tampa with a 6-1 home rout. The win snapped a four-game losing skid by the Badgers all-time against the Florida squad.
• University of South Alabama junior Hannah Godfrey was voted the Sun Belt Conference’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week. She is the first Jaguar to win the weekly honor this season, and claims the award for the second time in her career.
• For the third consecutive week, UM’s Annie Kate Hudson was named SSAC Setter of the Week. She tallied 170 assists on the weekend, including 53 against Dillard and 56 against Reinhardt. Both of those totals rank in the top 10 for a single match in UM history.
• After her dominant performance at the UM tournament, sophomore outside hitter Mirella Gatterdam was named SSAC Attacker of the Week. She led the Rams in kills in three of the four matches this weekend en route to racking up 64 in total. She now has 205 kills on the season, which ranks her third in the NAIA. Earlier, the reigning SSAC Freshman of the Year was named to the Life University Tournament all-star team after picking up 51 kills.
• Junior South Alabama women’s cross country runner Laura Labuschaigne opened up the fall season with a win as she crossed the line with a time of 17:40.0 in the 5K race to pace the Jaguar women and lead the club to the team title at the Azalea City Classic, held at The Grounds.
• South Alabama men’s golfer Jason Mendel was named a Golf Coaches Association of America Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar. The rising senior from Norcross, Georgia, was one of 260 NCAA Division I student-athletes recognized this year. Last year, Mendel paced the Jaguars with 11 rounds at or below par while posting a career best 74.26-stroke average.
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