In an announcement from the NCAA Division II meetings held last week in Indianapolis, the group’s membership committee voted to require both Lee and Rogers (Okla.) State University to repeat the year-one candidacy period.
“Lee athletics will have to deal with a bump in the road during its travel toward full compliance in its move to the NCAA,” the school stated in a press release this morning. “A phone call and a short release provided to the Lee administration by the NCAA last weekend notified the university it is facing a potential one-year delay in its process toward full membership, unless an appeal grants the school a revision of that requirement.
“Last year Lee University was officially accepted into the first stage of the process for joining NCAA D-II and was immediately accepted into the Gulf South Conference. During this past year the athletic department finished its final year as a member of the NAIA while simultaneously beginning to bring its program into compliance with the rules and regulations set forth by the NCAA and the Gulf South Conference,” the release explained.
"We have encountered a potential delay in our transition to full membership in NCAA D-II,” said Lee President Dr. Paul Conn. “I have been notified that the NCAA membership committee may require us to repeat our first year in the transition process, subject to an appeal which Lee is making later this month."
Lee will appeal the decision to the NCAA D-II Management Council's Sub-Committee for Appeals, which is comprised of administrators who are not on the membership committee.
Conn said the ruling is "not a problem with any of our teams or coaches, or any issues of student eligibility or non-compliance with rules of competition. It's a matter of our learning to report more effectively and learn better how to operate administratively within the NCAA environment. I think we now have a grasp of our problems, and we will work with the NCAA to correct them. I hope we will be able to do this without losing a year in our process, and we are going through the appeal process for that purpose.
“In the meantime, we have been assured by the Gulf South Conference that this action will not affect our competing in a full NCAA D-II conference and non-conference schedule, beginning as planned with the opening of soccer, volleyball, and cross country seasons in September.
Conn added: "Being a member of NCAA D-II has been a dream of ours for many years, because we believe it is a superb organization and the natural home for Lee University. This development doesn't change that at all. We just have to do a better job of meeting their standards administratively, and I'm confident we can do that.
“We will provide the public with a more complete statement as soon as we have more information."
Gulf South Commissioner Nate Salant said the decision regarding Lee came as a surprise to him and he is hopeful the appeal will be successful. He went on to say that the GSC remains very supportive of Lee as an impressive new member and is looking forward to the university’s full participation in the Gulf South.
"If Lee's appeal is denied, it will have to repeat first-year candidacy, in which case we (GSC) will file Lee's schedules to get the automatic waiver that would make it a D-II in-region counter for 2013-14,” said Salant.
The D-II membership committee’s announcement came just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Lee being invited to join the NCAA D-II ranks.
After being offered membership in the Gulf South Conference in May 2012, the local university received its official NCAA Division II invitation on July 13, 2012. Last Thursday (July 11), Lee learned it has been ordered to repeat the year-one criteria of the three-year process to full membership.
Increasing its membership to 293 institutions, D-II will add eight new members — Black Hills State (S.D.), California Baptist, Lindenwood (Mo.), Malone (Ohio), McKendree (Ill.), South Dakota Mines, Ursuline (Ohio) and Walsh (Ohio) — this fall, plus a 24th conference was approved for active status.
Following the acceptance of the Mountain East Conference earlier this year, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) will become the second new conference to gain active status in Division II beginning in 2013-14. Both conferences include previous members of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which disbanded following the 2012-13 academic year.
The G-MAC originally applied for Division II membership in 2012 and spent the past year completing an educational assessment to become an active member conference. Members of the G-MAC for the 2013-14 academic year include Alderson Broaddus, Cedarville, Central State, Davis and Elkins, Kentucky Wesleyan, Ohio Valley, Salem International, Trevecca Nazarene and Ursuline.
Institutions advancing from the year-one candidacy period into year two of candidacy included Daemen (N.Y.), Holy Names (Calif.), Lubbock Christian (Okla.), McMurry (Texas), Northwestern Oklahoma State, Oklahoma Christian and Virginia at Wise.
Moving from candidacy year two into provisional status were Azusa Pacific (Calif.), Fresno Pacific (Calif.), Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.), Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.), Shorter (Ga.), Southern Nazarene (Okla.), Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.), Union (Tenn.) and Young Harris (Ga.). Shorter and Union are also joining the Gulf South Conference.
Of the five applications D-II received seeking to begin the membership process this fall, just two were accepted — Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.) and Spring Hill (Ala.), both of which played in the NAIA’s Southern States Athletic Conference with Lee.
Mississippi College, which had applied to return to D-II and the Gulf South Conference, was one of the three schools which had its application denied by the membership committee.
"MC's president has already told me that if its appeal is denied, they will re-apply as soon as permitted,” stated Salant. “MC is very serious about returning to the GSC and the only way that can happen is by earning a berth in the D-II membership process. We have them tentatively slotted into our 2014-15 schedules, so we will await the results of the appeal before considering any other steps. The GSC remains very interested in, and highly supportive of, both institutions (Lee and Mississippi College).”
Lee spent 38 years in NAIA competition and will compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) postseason tournaments until it is has completed the probationary period required of all new NCAA D-II members.
— The Lee University Sports Information Department, Josh Looney/NCAA.org and gulfsouthconference.org contributed to this story.