The Board of Trustees of Iowa Wesleyan College voted today to apply for membership in the NCAA Division III by January 15, 2012. The College athletic programs are currently under the auspices of the NAIA.
The move came as a result of a recommendation of the Board’s Enrollment Management and Athletics Task Force. That group has focused on developing recommendations to help build student enrollment through recruitment and retention strategies.
“There are a number of compelling reasons to pursue affiliation with NCAA as a member of their Division III,” said Iowa Wesleyan College President Jay Simmons. “Chief among them is to provide our athletic teams an opportunity to be more competitive by playing colleges similar in size, budget and mission to Iowa Wesleyan College,” he said.
“In addition, as an NCAA D-III school, our scholarship focus would shift to give us greater equity in scholarship support for athletes and non-athletes as all of the College’s institutional aid would be based on academic merit, fine arts performance and need.”
Iowa Wesleyan is currently the smallest member in the NAIA’s Midwest Collegiate Conference, where all teams except football compete. The Iowa Wesleyan football program participates in the Mid-States Football Association.
With its application to the NCAA, Iowa Wesleyan will pursue admission to the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC). The SLIAC is composed of nine private institutions in Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. Members are: Blackburn College, Carlinville, Ill.; Eureka College, Eureka, Ill.; Fontbonne University, St. Louis, Mo.; Greenville College, Greenville, Ill.; MacMurray College, Jacksonville, Ill.; Principia College, Elsah, Ill.; Spalding University, Louisville, Ky.; Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.; and Westminster College, Fulton, Mo.
Participation in the new conference as a provisional NCAA D-III school would begin in August 2012.
The change in scholarship policies applies only to those students enrolling at Iowa Wesleyan in the fall of 2012 or later. Simmons emphasized that all currently enrolled students receiving an athletic scholarship will retain that scholarship, subject to the usual provisions of academic progress and good standing.
“No currently enrolled student’s athletic scholarship will be affected by this change,” Simmons said. “In fact, some currently enrolled student-athletes may qualify for additional aid, depending on academic merit.”
Simmons acknowledged that with this announcement the NAIA will suspend Iowa Wesleyan’s membership at the end of the 2012 spring athletic seasons. NAIA by-laws stipulate that game schedules will be retained but the College would be barred from post-season play beginning with the fall 2012 season. For this school year, Iowa Wesleyan teams will be able to advance to post-season play if they earn it in the Midwest Collegiate Conference.
“Iowa Wesleyan teams will be able to advance to post-season play if they earn it in the MCC this school year,” said Simmons. “Any team winning the conference will advance, just as they did last year.”
As a provisional member of the NCAA, Iowa Wesleyan will not be eligible for post-season competition until all current students receiving athletic scholarships have graduated. For these reasons, Simmons said, Iowa Wesleyan has joined the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, a national organization that provides small colleges alternative venues for post-season competition.
“Should any of our teams compile a record that would have allowed them to compete in a post-season tournament during this transitional period, we pledge that we will send that team to the USCAA event,” Simmons said. “We can assure our student-athletes that they will not be denied an opportunity to continue a successful season.”
Iowa Wesleyan’s athletic programs include competition in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, softball, track and field and volleyball.