The Dixie State College Board of Trustees Tuesday unanimously granted approval for the college to explore the possibility of its athletic programs competing at the NCAA Division II level.
Currently, Dixie State competes as part of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA). However, as the college continues its transition to a four-year institution, DSC's administration strongly believes that the mission of the athletic department needs to evolve with it.
"We are an accredited four-year state college," said DSC President Dr. Robert Huddleston, "and it's important that our athletic department reflect where we want to take this institution in the future. The goal of obtaining a more academic-oriented student to participate in DSC's intercollegiate athletic program is a very important aspect of our college mission."
Dixie is currently exploring admissions possibilities with two conferences: the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) and the California College Athletic Association (CCAA).
The college already meets much of the criteria required by the NCAA in many respects. NCAA sources have indicated that DSC Athletics would currently fall in the top 15 percent of Division II institutions when taking into consideration facilities, scholarship funding, and student enrollment.
DSC's current enrollment of over 8,000 students would put the college in the top 10 percent of Division II institutions. Seating capacity, the availability of facilities, and the age of current facilities also make Dixie a potential candidate, according to Huddleston.
In order to make the jump, the college will most likely have to add an additional two bachelor's degrees to its menu of course offerings in order to recruit students who are capable of the academic and athletic requirements of the NCAA. The college offers four baccalaureate degrees and is currently considering adding a fifth in communications.
Any additional funding for success at the Division II level is an attainable goal, Huddleston said. As per NCAA Division II requirements, a total of 10 sports must be offered at an institution. The college's proposal of the addition of women's golf and women's tennis would help Dixie meet that criteria, in addition to helping the college maintain Title IX compliance. Currently, the college offers eight athletic programs.
In addition, the college would have to add some extra positions to its athletics staff to become eligible, including a senior women's administrator, a faculty athletic advisor, compliance officer, and coaches for the additional programs. Though minimal, the college will also have to come up with some additional travel funding. Altogether, the college will have to add a projected $78,000 a year to its athletic budget in order to make this transition from a financial standpoint. The college is considering an increase in student fees of $10 per semester to help cover these additional costs.
The college hopes to begin play as an NCAA institution as soon as August 2006. An official from the RMAC has already made a visit to the Dixie campus to explore the possibility of the college joining its conference. If admittance is eventually granted by one of the two conferences mentioned, or another conference, any move will require the stamp of approval of the college's Board of Trustees.
"This is by no means a done deal. We're strictly in the exploration phases of this," said Huddleston. "There's a chance neither of the conferences will accept us, but we really feel strongly about needing to make this move as an institution at this time."
In addition to more closely aligning its athletic department with the mission of the institution, another upside of this potential move is that there are student-athletes at Dixie right now who want the opportunity of playing out their four-year intercollegiate athletic eligibility at Dixie, Huddleston said. In all likelihood, the move would also be conducive to attracting more local talent.