University of Texas at Tyler officially applies for NCAA Division II status

TYLER, Texas (KETK) - The University of Texas at Tyler submitted a formal application Friday to the National Collegiate Athletic Association for Division II membership.

“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.”

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 Athletics Director Dr. 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.”

If the application is accepted for review, the NCAA is expected to make a decision on UT Tyler’s application in July. If UT Tyler is accepted into the Division II membership process, UT Tyler 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.

UT Tyler currently competes in the Division III American Southwest Conference of NCAA athletics. 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.

While Division III schools do not offer athletics scholarships, 75 percent of Division III student-athletes receive some form of merit or need-based financial aid.

Division II relies on a partial-scholarship model to administer athletics-based financial aid.  Very few of the 110,000 student-athletes competing in Division II will receive a full athletics grant that covers all of their expenses, but most of them will receive some athletics-based financial aid to help them through school. For the rest of their expenses, student-athletes use academic scholarships, student loans and employment earnings just like most other students attending the school.

The partial-scholarship model allows Division II schools to recognize student-athletes for their skills through athletics-based aid, while at the same time keeping athletics budgets more in line with the institution’s bottom line. It costs Division II schools about half as much to sponsor a competitive athletics program as it does in Division I. The net operating costs in Division II even tend to be lower than for programs of similar size in Division III (primarily because of higher net operating revenues in Division II).

The partial-scholarship model is sometimes referred to as an “equivalency” system. That’s because schools in Division II are allowed to award athletics-based financial aid that is “equivalent” to a certain number of full grants in each sport.

For example, in football, schools are allowed to award up to 36 “equivalencies” or full grants, but of course the rosters in football are much larger than 36 players. Thus, coaches and financial aid officers at Division II institutions decide how to allocate those equivalencies as partial scholarships. That means some student-athletes may receive more athletics-based aid than others, and some will not receive any at all. As a comparison, schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision are allotted 85 “full rides.”

The partial-scholarship model offers a cost-effective alternative for institutions to operate their athletics programs. Division II’s partial-scholarship model actually contributes as a revenue producer for the institution, particularly when compared to the alternatives of full scholarships (Division I) or no athletics grants-in-aid (Division III).

UT Tyler currently 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.

The leap into Division II could allow for the university to create a football program in the future.

UT Tyler became a four-year university in 1997 and admitted its first freshman class in 1998. Created in 1971 as an upper-division institution serving junior, senior and graduate level students, the university has been a member of the UT System since 1979. While welcoming freshman students, the university still recognizes the importance of its transfer and graduate enrollment.

A steady increase in enrollment has brought the university to more than 10,527 students.

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