SALT LAKE CITY — Utah could soon have a new Division I school.
Dixie State University is looking into joining the Western Athletic Conference and moving from NCAA Division II status to D-I, school officials confirmed to the Deseret News.
"There has been initial and mutual interest and exploration between Dixie State University and the Western Athletic Conference in regards to a possible move to NCAA Division I status. However, no official invitation has been extended by the WAC," Dixie State athletic director Jason Boothe said.
"Dixie State has hired a consultant group (Collegiate Consulting) to do a feasibility study to see what it would take athletically, academically and financially as an institution to consider a move from our current NCAA Division II status and become an NCAA Division I member."
Dixie State has scheduled three town hall meetings — Nov. 6 for the student body, Nov. 7 for faculty and staff, and Nov. 7 for the community (DSU Gardner Center Cottam Room).
The potential transition, which is generating a positive buzz around the college and community, is on the agenda for the DSU Board of Trustees meeting in November.
The Trailblazers currently field 15 sports — six men's and nine women's teams — as part of the D-II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. That fulfills the D-I minimum requirement of 14 sports, so Dixie State would not need to add any additional sports.
According to the feasibility report released by Dixie State, in order to become D-I eligible, the Trailblazers would need their football program to be sponsored by the WAC and/or the Trailblazers would need to add one men's sport to meet that conference's entry requirements. The annual application deadline is June 1. In order to be considered, DSU would be required to receive a membership offer, pay a $1.7 million application fee and submit an application with a copy of the feasibility study and Division I strategic plan.
Upon approval, Dixie State would begin a four-year process to earn full Division I membership.
Currently, Utah has six Division I schools: BYU, Southern Utah, Utah, Utah State, Utah Valley and Weber State.
Westminster College is the only other Division II school in Utah.
Other findings from the feasibility study:
- Dixie State should only consider the transition if the WAC commits to sponsoring football as part of its membership portfolio. The conference confirmed to Collegiate Consulting that it's "initiating a study in the Fall 2018 to explore the options and opportunities of starting a FCS football conference."
- The Trailblazers are in “a strong position” with facilities, especially with the addition of the Human Performance Center.
- The move would “elevate” the school’s brand and stature, both regionally and nationally, which would benefit athletics and academics.
- The school can expect an invitation from the WAC if it commits to D-I.
- The consultants recommend that DSU increase scholarships awarded to at least 177 (currently 97) and a full complement of 63 football scholarships; improve academic support and boost the athletic department and coaching staff; and provide better nutrition and food service for student-athletes.
The school’s current sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf and soccer for men along with women’s basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
The WAC currently consists of nine schools: California Baptist University; California State University, Bakersfield; Chicago State University; Grand Canyon University; University of Missouri-Kansas City; New Mexico State University; Seattle University; The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; and Utah Valley University.