Loyola taking steps toward joining NCAA
While no decision has been made, administrators weigh all options
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 15:10
Loyola University is eyeing a move to the NCAA, a change that would heighten competition within the sports program.
Loyola is currently a part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or the NAIA. Spring Hill College is the only other Jesuit institution left within the NAIA, and they are also contemplating leaving.
“I think it is important to consider that Spring Hill will be making application to NCAA Division II,” associate athletic director Brett Simpson said. “If they are successful in receiving an invitation to the NCAA, then Loyola would be the lone Jesuit institution in the NAIA.”
Though no official decision has been made to date, discussion of being the only Jesuit institution within the NAIA is not a favorable circumstance for Loyola. Simpson sees importance in being in a league with other Jesuit colleges.
“The biggest opportunity for Loyola would be the ability to better connect with other Jesuit colleges and universities around the country,” Simpson said. “If we were in the NCAA, it would be easier for our teams to play more games against other Jesuit schools. We could utilize these games as a way to promote Loyola in other areas of the country.”
Simpson stressed that Loyola is not making this decision on a whim. The possible switch into the NCAA is a lengthy process that has involved research and working closely with the Intercollegiate Athletic Consulting.
“ICAC has done numerous studies with schools considering similar changes in athletic positioning,” Simpson said. “They spent time talking with all constituents on campus including faculty, staff, students and alumni. They also worked closely with our steering committee that had representatives of faculty, staff, students and alumni.”
A move into the NCAA would mean more than just a different title for the sports program. As a part of the Centennial Campaign, Loyola has plans for field space and improvements to the University Sports Complex. The field space would allow the baseball team to compete closer to campus as well as possibly add other sports including softball and men’s and women’s soccer. The new facility would also be a potential site for intramurals.
“Potentially, you could see softball and soccer players on campus which would increase the number of student athletes by 60-75,” Simpson said. “The profile of our student athletes will not change. We will continue to recruit students who can succeed academically at Loyola and are also talented in athletics.”
Vice president for Student Affairs and associate provost Cissy Petty welcomes the possibility of being a part of the NCAA.
“Belonging to the NCAA would raise our profile with admissions, alumni and provide distinct opportunities to network with the other 27 Jesuit institutions,” Petty said.
University president The Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J. invited a national consultant to work with a committee of faculty, staff and student leaders.
“The committee and consultant have worked together for about a year now,” Petty said. “The president has not made a decision, and when a decision is made, he will recommend it to the Board of Trustees.”
Regardless of any change in athletics, Loyola’s main priority is to recruit based on academic achievement as well as athletic ability according to Petty. Joining the NCAA wouldn’t change the university’s mission or focus.
“Currently our athletes, both men and women, have higher GPAs than either the all-men or all-women’s average,” Petty said. “As we add sports, it will certainly increase enrollment opportunities for admissions recruitment and potentially help with gender equity on campus.”
Cami Thomas can be reached at email@example.com