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NCAA grants UAFS active member status; adds soccer

story submitted by the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith has announced that it has been granted active member status by the NCAA beginning with the 2011-12 athletic season.

Fourth-year athletic director Dustin Smith received the official confirmation via a conference call with a spokesperson for the NCAA Division II membership committee at 11:10 a.m. on Friday and made the announcement public during a 3 p.m. news conference at the Stubblefield Center.

“This is a great day for UA Fort Smith and the Lions athletic family,” Smith said. “It has been a long four years and receiving the news that we are poised to be active members of NCAA Division II is welcomed.”

UAFS announced its intentions to pursue Division II membership prior to the start of the 2007-08 season. UAFS, which competed as a junior college since its founding in 1928, continued to compete as a member of NJCAA during the two-year exploratory period required for Division II membership (2007-09) and competed as a provisional member of Division II the past two seasons.

As an active member, UAFS is now eligible to compete for regular-season conference championships and qualify for postseason play.

“We are excited to be active members of NCAA Division II,” UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul B. Beran said. “Division II is a great fit for UA Fort Smith, particularly with the direction Division II has taken under the leadership of its members’ presidents and chancellors who have made a conscientious decision to focus on the student aspect of student-athlete.”

Smith said the granting of active member status is the culmination of a lot of hard work by several dedicated individuals.

“Dr. Paul Beran and (former athletic director) Dale Harpenau were responsible for putting this plan in motion several years ago. The vision they had then has become a reality today,” Smith said. “We obviously wouldn’t have been here today without their vision. It took a total buy-in from the entire group – our coaches, student-athletes and the athletic department staff – as well as the university as a whole for this to happen. It is a great day for Lions athletics as we continue to build on the rich tradition of this fine university.”

There were a few hurdles to overcome during the transition. For one, the program’s move from junior college to NCAA Division II is not a common path taken by athletic programs, and the program’s initial request for full membership status in July of 2010 was denied because of a failure to field a team in the minimum required 10 sports.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment was for the coaching staff and the student-athletes, especially the past two seasons. As a provisional member, UAFS wasn’t eligible to compete for conference championships or participate in postseason play.

“This news is a tremendous testament to our student-athletes, our coaches, our athletic department staff, our fans, the university administration and the entire UA Fort Smith family,” Smith said. “We are excited to be a part of the NCAA and look forward to competing in this new division as active members.”

UAFS accepted an invitation to join the Heartland Conference, which is based in Waco, Texas, in March of 2009. This past May, UAFS completed its second season of competition in the eight-team league that includes Dallas Baptist University, St. Edward’s University, St. Mary’s University, Texas A&M International University, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Newman University.

This past season, the men’s and women’s basketball teams finished with the best records in their respective divisions in the Heartland Conference and would have qualified for the conference tournament had it not been for UA Fort Smith’s provisional NCAA Division II status. The volleyball team and baseball teams also would have qualified for their conference tournaments as well.

Even though they were not eligible to win the conference tournament, the men’s and women’s golf teams still participated in the conference tournament and finished second and fourth, respectively.

“The news we have received today will allow our student-athletes and coaches to once again compete for conference, region and national championships,” Smith said. “We are thrilled with the news and look forward to the opportunity to play in the postseason once again.”

UAFS will begin its first season as an active NCAA Division II member on Sept. 2 when the volleyball team opens the season against the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the first round of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Showcase.

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Also, UAFS will add women’s soccer beginning with the 2012-13 athletic season.

“We will begin a coaching search this fall,” Smith said. “Our plan is to field a team beginning in the fall of the 2012-13 athletic season.”

It will be the 11th sport offered by UAFS, which will be an active member of NCAA Division II beginning with the 2011-12 athletic season. UAFS currently sponsors volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis.

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Comments

If only...

If only there wasn't that absurd rule Stubblefield agreed to not allowing us to have a football team. Would absolutely love to see UAFS get a football team. I'd go to every single game as long as I lived here. Oh well..who really needs the most popular college athletic sport anyway? It was a poor decision. No two ways around it. It's still pretty awesome to be DII though. Good for them.

football

What is this rule and how is it binding upon UAFS, is it a law? H Boland Fort Smith

Sorry, no football ever

Regardless of the supposed Stubblefield Rule, other than the big BCS schools (mostly the SEC) and their deep-pocketed donors, TV contracts and merchandise sales, college football is a big money loser and drain on school budgets -- just ask ASU and UCA. Football is the costliest of college sports. Division II football requires 36 scholarships, would necessitate land acquisition, building and maintaining a 5,000 - 10,000 seat football stadium, high equipment costs relative to other sports, hiring numerous coaches, travel expenses for all those players and coaches, recruiting budget, etc. You wouldn't want to anger the locals. Some here already gripe about them dang burn administators and their paychecks (despite being lower than comparable schools such as ATU). They surely wouldn't stand for an athletic department that requires significant taxpayer funds and tuition/fee increases to stay afloat or a football coach making $70,000 - $90,000 base salary.
Regardless of the supposed Stubblefield Rule, other than the big BCS schools (mostly the SEC) and their deep-pocketed donors, TV contracts and merchandise sales, college football is a big money loser and drain on school budgets -- just ask ASU and UCA. Football is the costliest of college sports. Division II football requires 36 scholarships, would necessitate land acquisition, building and maintaining a 5,000 - 10,000 seat football stadium, high equipment costs relative to other sports, hiring numerous coaches, travel expenses for all those players and coaches, recruiting budget, etc. You wouldn't want to anger the locals. Some here already gripe about ...>> Read the entire comment.

Stubblefield did not Agree to that Rule???

Arkansas has long had rules in play to stifle any in-state competition for the Razorbacks. Examples have been many and include provisions such as Junior Colleges not having dorms and Junior Colleges not having football. These two rules (among many) have long given UofA Fayetteville a huge monopoly on recruiting. I will not pass judgement if this is right or wrong but will tell you that those rules have been in place long before Chancellor Stubblefield and date way back. __Other states do not have those rules. Most states support numerous teams. A few of those rules have been recended or elapsed in recent years. I will also add that these same rules affected UALR which until the late 90's did not have dorms and they still only have Intramural Football!__The NCAA push started under Stubblefield's watch. Part of the reasoning was that he had turned Westark into a 4-year institution and the sports program needed to keep pace. Athletics is a cost issue. If they ever add football it would have to be affordable, sustainable and allowed by state law and their current conference. __The rules that stifle competition for the Razorbacks also assure that UA Fayetteville has always received the bulk of higher-ed money in the state. Getting anything, anything, for "us hicks" down in the River Valley has always been like pulling teeth.

The no football/no dorm

The no football/no dorm provision was in the authorization act that created a system of community colleges. This was based on Shelby Breedlove's doctoral thesis and a part of Dale Bumpers legacy to the state. When Westark became UAFS that became moot. There are now dorms and FB is a money loser. U A would love a FB program there. An instate farm program. H Nutt really wanted this. Hope it never happens.

College Sports

With the rare exception of major university football programs, college sports are a huge drain of school funds. These programs benefit a miniscule group of students who are statistically less likely to graduate despite consuming several times the average in per student university resources. If certain members of the community desire a team around which to wave pom-poms, then these sports teams should be privately funded and not drained from university resources and the tuition of every student. If ticket prices reflected the cost of the program, the programs wouldn't exist. The assumption that UAFS could support a football team in any circumstance is ridiculous. The current announcement about soccer is actually bad news for the majority of the student body whether they realize it or not. With the current financial situation, UAFS should be eliminating programs which do not serve the entire student body and the academic mission rather than creating more expensive versions of programs which provide little to the community or the student body. If Fort Smith wants to support a university sports program, then 45 minutes north is a program which at least provides some self-financing and doesn't drain the student body for the benefit of a few otherwise academically under-performing students.

Thats a great post anon.

Thats a great post anon. Since when is it the schools job to provide entertainment to the commnunity? You have schools spending crazy amounts of cash on sports programs. Im all about having fun, but when we have kids that struggle to reading, math, the sciences etc...we should realign our priorities. Reducing some of these high end salaries and Vice chancellors of lawn, flowers and turf would also help save money that could be used for education.