UT Tyler accepted into NCAA Division II membership process

TYLER, Texas (KETK) - The University of Texas at Tyler has been accepted into the NCAA Division II membership process.

The announcement was made by UT Tyler President Dr. Michael Tidwell during a press conference at the university on Friday.

After a nearly year-long vetting process with guidance from an expert consultant and internal research, UT Tyler prepared an application for an NCAA Division II membership and submitted it in February 2018 in order to bring more excitement to athletics events, as well as provide new opportunities for scholarships.

“Our athletic programs have never been stronger, and we are ready for the challenge of NCAA Division II competition,” said Dr. Tidwell. "UT Tyler’s mission aligns well with the student-athlete philosophy of NCAA Division II. We know the higher level of excitement will enhance student engagement and create scholarship opportunities — both leading to improved student success.”

According to a press release issued earlier in the day by the NCAA, UT Tyler joins Benedictine University (Illinois) and Savannah State University to begin their first year of the process.

During a three-year transitional period, UT Tyler teams are not eligible to compete for NCAA championships.

UT Tyler is expected to join the Lone Star Conference.

“The Lone Star Conference is the best of the many great NCAA Division II conferences in our region, and there is no other conference we’d want our Patriot teams to play in,” said Dr. Tidwell.

Prior to Friday's announcement, UT Tyler competed 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.

In the summer of 2017, Dr. Tidwell hinted at using part of the land purchased by the university in 2016 as the site for a possible athletics campus.

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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