Three schools line up to join Division III

Soon there will be another Johnson & Wales Wildcats team on the scoreboard.
JWU Denver athletics photo 

Three schools have put themselves in position to join NCAA Division III and have been accepted as exploratory members of Division III by the NCAA. 

Exploratory membership is a one-year program before a school becomes a provisional member. Provisional membership typically lasts four years, with a school becoming a full member of Division III in the fifth year. Johnson & Wales Denver, one of the four J&W campuses nationwide, has applied, along with SUNY-Delhi and Mississippi University for Women.

Like Morrisville State and Alfred State before it, SUNY Delhi is also a two-year school in the State University of New York athletic system. Mississippi University for Women has recently started enrolling male undergraduates and is restarting athletics for the first time in 15 years. 

JWU Denver is also joining the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference next season, a rare move for an exploratory member. This will give the SCAC two schools in Colorado, the only two schools in the entirety of the Mountain Time Zone aligned with Division III in any way. 

"The addition of Johnson & Wales is a move that strengthens the conference as having another member in the Colorado footprint is logistically sound," said SCAC commissioner Dwayne Hanberry.

JWU Denver is currently an NAIA member. The school listed 1,255 full-time undergraduates on its most recent filing with the U.S. Department of Education. It offers 12 sports: men's basketball, cross country, soccer, and indoor and outdoor track; women's basketball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, indoor and outdoor track and volleyball. The school will explore adding men's and women's golf as well as elevating its men's lacrosse team from a club sport. 

MUW, in Columbus, Miss., has been working on adding sports programs as it restarts its athletic department. The school, which has admitted men since 1982, currently lists baseball, softball, men's and women's cross country, men's soccer and women's volleyball. "Today marks a huge step forward for Owls Athletics. With the acceptance of our exploratory application, we have shown a commitment and desire to be a part of the NCAA and its outstanding membership," said Jason Trufant, director of athletics.

SUNY-Delhi has not issued an announcement. The school reported 2,654 full-time undergraduates in its most recent filing and appears to sponsor 17 sports.

Merely doing an exploratory year is no guarantee that a school will choose to move forward in the process. St. Anselm, which announced its application for an exploratory year in 2016-17 to much fanfare, is not among the three schools moving forward into the first year of provisional membership. Dean College, a former two-year school in the Boston area, is, along with Brevard College and Pfeiffer University, in North Carolina.