McMurry president John Russell announced the institution's board of trustees unanimously approved a plan to apply for candidacy status in the NCAA's Division II classification.
The school joins Lincoln and Lake Erie as schools recently making the transition down from Division III to Division II.
The university joined the NCAA as a Division III member
beginning with the 1996-97 school year, and McMurry has been a
member of the American Southwest Conference since its inception.
During the transitional period announced Friday, Dec. 17, Russell
said that McMurry intends and desires to be a competing member of
both the ASC and the NCAA Division III until the guidelines for
transition are met based on the NCAA's timeline and requirements
Rising to the top of the advantages in the decision for pending reclassification was the positive impact it would have on the entire McMurry community.
“Positioning McMurry in the highly competitive education marketplace requires that we look at every opportunity to grow the quality and the size of the university,” said Russell. “Our transition to NCAA Division II athletic competition will provide a more regional focus to the recruiting efforts of our entire student body and take advantage of what we are learning from the early 2010 census indications. This athletic transition fits within the framework of a number of governance and academic changes we are investigating to better position McMurry for its 2023 centennial.”
Paul Fabrizio, McMurry's vice president for academic affairs, endorsed the board's decision for a transition to the NCAA Division II.
“I welcome this move towards scholarship athletics. I believe that it will help build our academic programs and will encourage student-athletes to devote more time to the classroom,” said Fabrizio. “This NCAA athletic scholarship program insures that student-athletes will be more likely to fulfill their academic purpose when they come to McMurry.”
For the athletics department, McMurry last awarded athletics scholarships as a member of the NAIA for the 1976-77 school year, and for football, scholarships were dropped after the incoming class for the 1974 season.
Moving forward, McMurry's athletic director Ron Holmes said he was excited about the upcoming transition.
“With this historic and positive vote by the board of trustees, McMurry is stepping forward in a bold way to explore possibilities to better ourselves in academics as well as athletics,” said Holmes. “We strive daily to find competitive edges in the athletic department to position ourselves for excellence down the road. A huge step was taken today and we are very excited about new possibilities.”
McMurry's chairman of the board, Phil Brewer, said that Thursday's vote was among the many plans for transformation of the institution established in 1923.
“The Board of Trustees is excited to lay the first corner of the foundation for the "new" McMurry that we will be building over the next 18 months,” said Brewer. “A foundation that will not only enable us to meet today's challenges, but also position ourselves to take advantage of tomorrow's opportunities.”
The timeline for reclassification is determined by the NCAA after approval to enter into the candidacy period. Once an institution is accepted into the candidacy period, a span that could last up to two years, it would move to the provisional period. The provisional period would last one academic year and would require evaluation by the NCAA to become an active member of the NCAA Division II.