DI Exploratory Committee releases their final report


Photo by Josh Meredith

Ron Romain, chair of the Board of Trustees, speaks at the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday. Romain said the board will make an official decision on transitioning university athletics to NCAA Division I by mid-February.

Ian Young and Tegan Ruhl

The Division I Exploratory Committee released their final report to the public Thursday. The report broke down the 24-member committee’s feelings and research on transitioning university athletics to Division I.  

The report evaluates 26 different assessments of items the committee covered to determine the readiness and feasibility of transitioning to Division I. Each item was rated on a scale from one to three where one is ready for transition, two requires minor adjustments to be ready and three requires more than minor adjustments.

Five of the items were ranked as a one. Academic quality of the university was listed in this category, and according to the committee’s report, “None of the academic standards or entrance requirements at USI would need to be adjusted to make the transition to Division I.”

Eleven of the items were listed as a two. Ensuring student-athletes have sufficient time for academic programs was in this category, and according to the committee’s report,  “Existing policies should be enhanced to ensure that student-athletes have time for their studies as frequency and duration of travel time for Division I athletics will likely increase over Division II athletics.”

Ten of the items were listed as a three. Raising the level of competition and talent, finances and the new staff that would need to be hired were listed in this category. 

The current athletic budget is $6.6 million. The committee projects the athletic budget required for DI would be $12 million.

The committee was clear in the report and previous presentations, including the committee’s co-chairs presentation at the SGA public forum on Dec. 2, 2021, that the $5.4 million dollar gap would be filled through student fees and fundraisers. 

The committee also released attendance comparison data on three conferences that “may be considered in the transition:” Horizon League Conference, Ohio Valley Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference.

The 2022 OVC basketball championship will be held at the Ford Center in Evansville, IN, marking the fifth straight year the conference championship has been held in Evansville.

The report also included the committee’s DI survey results that were previously released at the university meeting Jan. 5, 2022.

The Division I Exploratory Committee was co-chaired by Jon Mark Hall, director of athletics, and Nick LaRowe, professor of political science and university athletics council chair. 

Members on the 24 member committee included Steven Bridges, vice president for finance and administration treasurer, Anna Ardelean, Student Government Association president and Tyler Henry, president of the Black Student Union and student-athlete. Other members on the committee can be found on the committee’s report.

Anna Ardelean, student government association president, takes notes during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday morning. (Photo by Josh Meredith )

The committee’s report was provided to the Board of Trustees Thursday morning at the Board of Trustees meeting in the Griffin Center.  

Ron Romain, chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “There’s a lot of information that has been provided to the trustees for our consideration to allow us to continue our deliberations on this particular important topic.”

President Ronald Rochon said, “It will take some time for the Board of Trustees to digest the information from the feasibility study.” 

The board expects to make a decision by mid-February 2022, Rochon said. 

“Please bear with us,” Rochon said. “This is an important decision, and we’re taking it as seriously as we should on behalf of the university and committees.” 

The Board of Trustees met in executive session, or a non-public meeting, from 7:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Thursday morning before the Board of Trustees meeting. The Board of Trustees will meet in executive session for the second time in one week from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday off- campus.