By Josh Brown, Sports Editor
By now, everyone knows Union has made the decision to go into the NCAA and will begin the process to enter Division II. To the administration I say great job. You have made a decision that will benefit the university for years to come.
As a senior who has been writing sports for the Cardinal & Cream since my freshman year, I can only say I wish this move happened sooner. I will miss being able to write about the first game in the new conference next year and possibly covering a run for a NCAA championship in later years. But I am excited and the student body should be as well.
Why would we not be excited?
As college football begins and later into the sports calendar when the NCAA men and women’s basketball tournaments start, I have heard it many times from fellow students: “I wish Union played in the NCAA.”
If we sports fans here at Union are honest with ourselves, we have all thought something along those lines once big sports like college football and basketball roll around.
Well, that time is here. Freshman athletes and students should be most excited about this move, and I agree with most athletes I have talked to who have said that the fan support has to grow.
I say “should” because fans still have to make the effort to go to games and be behind the teams. I know that the conference we will be playing in is not widely known. I had never heard of the Gulf South Conference until covering the story, but now that the Bulldogs will be playing in the NCAA, fans should be more excited to go to games. I had heard of some of the teams in that conference: Christian Brothers in Memphis, Delta State, University of New Orleans, West Florida, Valdosta State, to name a few.
No, we will not be in the SEC, and it is unrealistic to think that the competition will be that exciting and up to that level. But what this brings to Union is name recognition.
If you are like me, you have friends who go to state schools with teams that play in the NCAA every year. I have been asked where Union plays and after saying the NAIA it is always a bewildered look and a question of “what’s that?” that follows.
The NCAA is simply more recognizable and more prestigious than the NAIA. I know some coaches have said they do not know how much it will change recruitment or if this jump will make that much of a difference in the players the teams pick up in the future.
However, the jump into the NCAA can only help the recruitment side of things. There is just a different gleam in an athlete’s eyes when they think about being able to play in the NCAA.
The move will only be as exciting as what the students and athletes make it. So make the most of it and enjoy it.
I wish the Bulldogs the best in the years to come competing in the NCAA.
Who knows? Maybe one day we will be talking about the Union University Bulldogs competing in a national championship in the NCAA in basketball, baseball, or maybe a football program on the rise in the future. That’s a column for another time.