Lee University wins NCAA appeal
by JOE CANNON Assistant Sports Editor
Sep 06, 2013 | 1393 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An unexpected hurdle in the transition to becoming an NCAA Division II program has been cleared by Lee University with a favorable ruling from the organization’s membership committee Thursday.

The decision to uphold Lee’s appeal and overturn an earlier ruling, which would have required the school to repeat its first-year candidacy process, means the Flames athletic program is back on track in the three-year process to full NCAA D-II membership.

“The Membership Committee made this decision based on ‘compelling evidence’ which we provided as part of the NCAA appeal process,” said Lee President Dr. Paul Conn. “The committee voted that new information which we provided in its appeal filing convinced them that we are ready for Year Two, and that it will not be necessary for us to process further in the appeal process. The decision of the Membership Committee is final, and there will no further review.”

There are no conditions or qualifications to this decision. Lee remains a provisional member of NCAA Division II, and now will resume moving through the transition process toward full membership in 2015.

During the July meeting of the D-II membership committee in Indianapolis, it was ruled both Lee and Rogers State (Okla.) would be required to repeat the first-year requirements in the transition process from an NAIA program to NCAA D-II.

Upon receiving written notice of the ruling, Lee had 30 days to appeal the decision and did so promptly.

After the July 12 decision, Conn organized a special team to prepare the appeal and write a revised annual report. He appointed Cole Strong, who is director of special projects for the president’s office, to coordinate the work of that team.

Conn offered special praise to Strong for his leadership in preparing for this appeal, and also to the other members of the president’s staff who worked as a team to respond to this issue.

The Lee president also expressed gratitude for the chair of the Membership Committee, Dan Mara, who is the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference commissioner, and to the entire committee for its willingness to review the lengthy appeal document and reconsider its original decision.

Conn noted that the Gulf South Conference supported Lee in the appeal, and that all Flames athletic teams will compete in full regular-season schedules in all sports in the conference starting immediately.

The five-time NAIA national champion Lee women’s soccer team opened the 2013-14 seasons on Thursday evening, and the volleyball team will host the annual Lee Invitational scheduled to begin today at noon.

The men’s soccer team will host its own invitational beginning at 4:30 p.m. today, and will be pitted against the defending D-II champions, Lynn University (Fla.), on Saturday at 7 p.m. The cross country men and women are in Chattanooga this afternoon to open their season and the golf teams will begin tournament play on Monday.

After many successful years as a member of the NAIA and the Southern States Athletic Conference, the Flames will take a giant step forward into the Gulf South Conference, which has been labeled the Southeastern Conference of Division II athletics.

From top to bottom the GSC is solid in all sports. Alabama-Huntsville, (Memphis) Christian Brothers, Delta State (Miss.), North Alabama, Valdosta State (Ga.), West Alabama, West Florida and West Georgia are current members. Shorter (Ga.), Union University and Lee will be playing full GSC schedules, but won’t be eligible for tournament competition.

After facing a pair of D-II opponents in the Olive Garden Invitational this weekend, the men's soccer team will be the first Lee squad to get a taste of GSC action. The Flames will travel across the state to Jackson on Sept. 13 to test Union.

The Olive Garden Invitational should give men's soccer a good measure of what to expect in Division II play.

The Flames will face King College this evening at 7. Coach Paul Furey showed no fear when he invited defending D-II national champions Lynn University (Fla.) to serve as Saturday's opponent. At the same time, Furey will also get a good look at Shorter. The Hawks face Lynn on Friday and King on Saturday. Those matches are slated for 4:30 p.m. starts.

After winning five straight NAIA national titles previous to last season, Coach Matt Yelton has taken his Lady Flame soccer team to California to open the new season. As usual, Yelton will send his ladies into the heat of the battle against longtime rival Azusa Pacific, dropping a 2-1 decision Thursday evening. After resting today, the Lady Flames will be pitted against Westmont College on Saturday at 3 p.m.

"We are looking forward to getting our season underway," Yelton said. "I think this trip will be much like our upcoming season in the GSC in that we don't really know what to expect out of the bulk of the opponents we will be facing this year. I am pleased with what I have seen out of our players so far. We are basically a brand-new team with eight new starters and some players in very different positions."

The Lady Flames will return to Cleveland and host NCAA Division III power, Emory University, next Friday in the annual Kickin' It for Kids with Cancer contest. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

Plenty of interest will be centered on Florence, Ala., on Sept. 18 when Yelton's group will face North Alabama. It will not only mark the Lady Flames opener in GSC play, but will send Yelton against his former assistant coach, Chris Walker. After being a member of the Lee men's soccer program for four years and serving as Yelton's assistant for three seasons, Walker took the head job at North Alabama in January.

After bringing in Bethel University, Indiana Tech, Coastal Georgia and Bryan for the annual Lee Invitational on Friday and Saturday, the Lady Flame volleyball team will wait until Sept. 20 to begin play in the GSC. Coach Andrea Hudson's unit will host West Alabama for a 7 p.m start. The Lady Flames will complete the action-packed weekend by bringing in West Florida for a 2 p.m. match on Sept. 21.

"The invitational is going to be very competitive and will allow all of our new players the opportunity to get their feet wet and work out game nervousness," said coach Hudson. "As expected, West Florida will be the top team in the GSC. Also, Christian Brothers will be strong and, of course, Shorter; they always give us a great match."

The cross country teams, under the direction of Caleb Morgan, began their seasons in a big way, going to Chattanooga this morning to the Moccasins Bend Race Course for the UTC PowerAde Invitational. Not backing down, the teams will travel to Vanderbilt the following Saturday and then head for the University of Louisville on Oct. 5.