NCAA move unfolds smoothly

By James Summerlin, Sports Editor

Union’s athletic program is completing the first year of candidacy status in the transition to the NCAA, and administrators say the process continues to run smoothly in this change.

“Progress continues very steadily and positively,” said Dr. David S. Dockery, university president. “The athletic department leaders are doing a fine job of providing oversight for the processes. We remain encouraged and hopeful regarding all aspects of the transition.”

Dockery said the transition is like an accreditation process, he said. Union is on schedule with the process.

The NCAA requires a transitioning school to visit a sister school within the same conference. Members of Union’s administration took the required visit to Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., Dockery said.

The trip allowed Union’s leadership to see how Delta State runs its athletic program. The administrators came back with a strong report.

“We were able to hear how they do some things and see how we can benefit from their experiences,” said Dr. Gary Williams, compliance officer for Union. “The folks at Delta State were very hospitable.”

The biggest issue the university administration is trying to adjust to during the process is the rule book the NCAA provides. In the past, NAIA rules were more loose in restrictions they required.

With the NCAA rules in play, coaches must take caution in when, where and how they recruit. Williams said any breach of these types of rules will result in a violation.

The NCAA asks universities to self-police any violations. The university reports any issues that come up, even if a violation is committed by accident.

“The NCAA looks to us to report violations,” Williams said. “But they also look for a response that will help us to monitor that situation to ensure we are in institutional control.”

Union  stands in the first year of candidacy status of the NCAA. Next year will be its final year with the status, complemented with a full Gulf South Conference schedule but no eligibility for postseason championship play. In the 2013-2014 year, Union will stand at provisional status, in which teams are still ineligible for post-season competition. The 2015-2016  year will be Union’s first year as a full member of the NCAA.

The NCAA said Union’s facilities  are either up to par or better than the required standards.

Union will add women’s golf next fall as part of the transition. Union’s leadership did not make the move to meet NCAA standards or requirements but to provide more opportunities for women’s athletics.

Due to the ineligibility to play in the postseason in the NCAA, Union is exploring the possibility of playing its postseason in the National Christian College Athletic Association. Competing in the NCCAA postseason has not been confirmed,  but Union’s leadership will look into competing for championships against peer schools.

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