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Sugar House Journal

Westminster Approved for Inclusion to Division II NCAA

Aug 14, 2015 10h35 ● By Bryan Scott

Westminster Approved

By Lewi Lewis

Although Westminster is, fundamentally, nationally known as a panoptic liberal arts college, the athletic department has gone through radical changes over the years and continues to grow still.

On Aug. 4, the school announced that it had been approved for Division II NCAA membership. However, that is just step one of a four step process. 

When the current president, Steve Morgan, became a part of Westminster in the early 80s, the only athletics the organization had was the Utah Jazz; the NBA team had no practice facility of their own and wound up using the college’s old Payne Gymnasium.

“We are pleased to be approved for ‘Candidacy Year One’ in NCAA Division II and become part of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference,” Morgan stated in a press release. 

“NCAA Division II encourages excellence in its student-athletes and provides a supportive environment to move our athletic program forward in a student-focused manner. The Westminster community looks forward to participating in the RMAC and completing the transition to NCAA Division II active membership status.”

Division II of the NCAA is one of three memberships at the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It is comprised of more than 1200 institutions, conferences and organizations.  

 It’s a complicated and comprehensive process to become an active member of the NCAA Division II, requiring an application consisting of a long list of requirements containing policies, procedures, strategic planning and documents about the institution and the intercollegiate athletics program. 

“This process requires input from a number of faculty and staff at our institution.  Each year of the provisional process consist of requirements we must meet in order to advance to the next year of the process,” Westminster’s Director of Athletics Shay Wyatt said. 

“The first step to attaining active membership within NCAA Division II and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) is to be approved into the NCAA membership process and Candidacy Year 1,  Wyatt said. “Additionally, to be considered and approved to begin the process required being accepted as a provisional member of the RMAC.” 

The benefits of full active membership go beyond just athletics as well. 

Wyatt said that membership within NCAA Division II and RMAC will bring some monetary and some non-monetary benefits, such as grants for student athletes and program initiatives, as well as “insurance coverage and post-season travel expenses for teams that may qualify when we’re eligible to compete for NCAA championships.”

The lean toward this inclusion has been long coming, the process having started started in the late 90s and early 2000s, according to Wyatt. 

“[It] stemmed from institutional strategic planning with one of the initiatives being further review and development of our intercollegiate and recreational sports offerings for students.  As this initiative progressed and developed further, the college began to annually assess and analyze our programming and affiliations where applicable.  This led to further review of our affiliations at that time and comparative analysis with other possible affiliations.  This process continued to evolve over the past ten years or more,” Wyatt explained. 

Such a transition will also create a transition for the athletic teams. “We anticipate there is going to be an adjustment period for our men’s and women’s sports teams as we begin our transition and begin competition within the RMAC and NCAA,” Wyatt said, touching on the fact that the level of competition will be greater.  “Our coaches and student-athletes are excited for the challenge and look forward to the competition. We recognize this transition will take additional efforts and resources over the next few years from both our campus and surrounding communities, along with alumni and supporters who care about the college and it’s programs.”  

However, he says, they are confident they can further develop their programs over the course of the next few years through sound planning and collaborative efforts, and eventually enhance Westminster College and the overall experience for student-athletes as well as their student body.

Today, the institution boasts numerous teams for men and women.