USI makes official transition to NCAA Division I

USI makes official transition to NCAA Division I
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 5:41 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The University of Southern Indiana has finally made the jump to NCAA Division I.

USI Athletics officially became a member of the Ohio Valley Conference on Friday.

Back in February, USI accepted an invitation to join the conference. The NCAA then approved the university’s bid to reclassify from Division II to Division I.

July 1 marks the beginning of the new academic year, which means it’s the first official day with USI competing at the Division I level.

At this point, signage is up and preparations are underway, while programs begin preparing for new challenges.

“Now that we’re a Division I institution, we’re getting more phone calls returned, getting more emails returned, getting more high school, AAU, youth coaches that really want to know more about us,” said USI Athletic Director Jon Mark Hall. “We’re working now to make sure we have OVC presence at the baseball field, the softball field, the tennis courts, the soccer field – we’re excited about getting that going. We’re just anxious to get to the fall where we can compete and then things will start to feel a little more back to normal for all of us.”

Another key shift, according to Hall, is the increased budget.

“Over the four-year process, we’ve talked about moving our budget from $6.5 to $6.6 million, up to $12 million, so it’s close to double that,” Hall said. “That’s going to take some time, it’s a process, it’s not going to happen all at once, but it’s definitely a bigger investment in scholarships, a bigger investment in staffing.”

The USI women’s basketball program has a veteran team with 14 returning players. While all this team knows is playing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, Screaming Eagles’ head coach Rick Stein says necessary conversations are already in motion.

“Obviously what we’ve talked about is we got to do our homework, we need to start thinking about the different league now,” Stein said. “We’re talking about different teams, different places we’re going to be going. That communication hopefully is going to get us ready for when we hit the ground running in November.”

Speaking of travel locations, Hall said the OVC felt like a perfect fit because their teams will not travel too far for conference games.

“Little Rock will be our longest one in conference, and that’s somewhat similar to us going to Kansas City when we were in the GLVC,” Hall said.

There is still a four-year reclassification transition process mandated by the NCAA, so although USI will be eligible to compete for conference championships, the Screaming Eagles are not yet eligible to compete for NCAA championships.

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