UT Tyler has officially put its hat in the ring to become a NCAA Division II college.
The University of Texas at Tyler submitted a formal application to the National Collegiate Athletic Association for Division II membership on Friday, and if the application is accepted for review, the NCAA is expected to make a decision in July. If the NCAA approves, UT Tyler will then join the Lone Star Conference, school officials said.
If UT Tyler is accepted into the Division II membership process, it will enter a three-year provisional period during which the university will comply with Division II rules and regulations and implement Division II policies and procedures.
During the provisional period, UT Tyler teams are not eligible to compete for NCAA championships. At the end of the provisional period, the NCAA Division II Membership Committee will review UT Tyler's progress and may invite the university to be an active Division II member. If invited, UT Tyler would begin its full Division II membership on Sept. 1, 2021.
"We believe investing in a strong athletics program yields returns in several key areas including student and alumni engagement, brand awareness and school spirit," said Dr. Michael Tidwell, UT Tyler president. "Playing at the more competitive Division II level will bring additional excitement to our athletics events, as well as provide new opportunities for new scholarships."
UT Tyler's Lucas Roebuck, vice president for marketing, brand strategy and community relations, said that while the university is considering using a portion of its East Campus for additional athletics facilities, the application was based on the current sports complexes.
"It's possible in the application process the NCAA could come back to us (about the facilities), but as part of the process we prepared documents based on our current facilities," Roebuck said. "We are confident we could be competitive with the facilities we have."
UT Tyler is currently an NCAA Division III program. Division III does not offer athletic scholarships, but D-II does.
The decision to seek Division II membership was made after a nearly yearlong vetting process with guidance from an expert consultant and internal research led by UT Tyler Director of Athletics Howard Patterson.
"The goals outlined in our new strategic plan align with the Division II philosophy of 'Life in Balance' and the emphasis on community engagement that is at the heart of the Division II experience," Patterson said.
"The Patriot athletics program has been creating champions in Division III for more than a decade, and we look forward to continuing that tradition should we be granted Division II membership."
Patterson added UT Tyler has been accepted into the Division II Lone Star Conference effective Sept. 1, 2019, and football is not part of the equation at this time. Lone Star Conference schools are located in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
Current Lone Star Conference members include: Angelo State University (San Angelo); Cameron University (Lawton, Oklahoma); Eastern New Mexico University (Portales, New Mexico); Midwestern State University (Wichita Falls); Tarleton State University (Stephenville); Texas A&M University-Commerce; Texas A&M University-Kingsville; Texas Woman's University (Denton); University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa); West Texas A&M University (Canyon); and Western New Mexico University (Silver City, New Mexico).
Other schools slated to join the conference in 2019 include: University of Arkansas-Fort Smith; Dallas Baptist University; Lubbock Christian University; Oklahoma Christian University (Oklahoma City); Rogers State University (Claremore, Oklahoma); St. Edward's University (Austin); St. Mary's University (San Antonio); and Texas A&M-International University (Laredo).
The Lone Star Conference office is in Richardson.
The LSC conducts conference championships in 17 sports (eight men and nine women). Men's championships include football, cross country, basketball, baseball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, golf and tennis. Women's titles are determined in volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, softball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, tennis and golf.
Roebuck also said the move to Division II will bring new opportunities for athletes to compete for scholarships. During the three-year provisional process, the college will work to find the right balance of scholarships to ensure it is competitive, he said.
UT Tyler is a member of the American Southwest Conference. UT Tyler is one of the newest members of the NCAA, having achieved full membership in the summer of 2007 after a four-year provisional period required of all new members.
UT Tyler sponsors intercollegiate teams in 17 sports: baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, men's and women's indoor track and field, and volleyball.
UT Tyler has won NCAA D-III National Championships in men's golf (2013) and softball (2016) along with individual national champions with Laura Lindsey (2013, women's golf), Kevonte Shaw (2015, indoor track, 200 meters) and Whitney Simmons (2016, outdoor track and field, hammer, and 2017, indoor track and field, weight throw). The athletic program has won 67 American Southwest Conference team titles, 82 individual championships and has made 75 NCAA tournament appearances.
According to the NCAA, Division II schools are located in 45 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and the District of Columbia. The division also expands its membership into Canada with the NCAA's only international member institution, Simon Fraser University, and features three schools in Puerto Rico.
Enrollments at Division II schools range from more than 25,000 to less than 2,500, though about 87 percent of the division's member schools have fewer than 8,000 students.
Division II offers a "partial-scholarship" model for financial aid in which most student-athletes' college experiences are funded through a mix of athletics scholarships, academic aid, need-based grants and/or employment earnings.
Division II is the only NCAA division that conducts National Championships Festivals, Olympic-style events in which a number of national championships are held at a single site over several days.
Division II student-athletes get their share of television exposure. Since 2006, the NCAA has produced regular-season Division II television broadcasts in football and men's and women's basketball. In addition, almost all Division II championship finals are either broadcast live or live-streamed online.