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Publish date: Feb 4, 2011

New Orleans plans reclassification to Division II

The University of New Orleans has submitted a proposal to the LSU Board of Supervisors to reclassify from Division I to Division II.

The move, announced Friday, will be considered at the LSU Board of Supervisors meeting March 4.

The institution also announced that it has been invited to join the Gulf South Conference and reiterated its plans to establish a varsity football program.

“Like the academic units on our campus, the LSU Board of Supervisors asked that we evaluate our department,” said Athletics Director Amy Champion. “The end result of the analysis was that Division II was the best course of action for our university moving forward.”

University officials said the decision to reclassify came after several months of studying each NCAA classification of NCAA competition and how each fit within the university’s mission.

New Orleans currently is competing as a Division I independent.  It previously had announced an intention to transition to Division III.

To complete the reclassification, the university will need formal approval from the Division II Membership Committee later this year.

NCAA Presidents Council chair Drew Bogner of Molloy College lauded the decision.

“The Presidents Council set out six years ago to make Division II a membership destination where schools, in a fiscally responsible way, can offer highly skilled student-athletes a place to compete for championships within a balanced collegiate experience,” Bogner said. “The University of New Orleans’ decision to seek membership is an example of the type of high-caliber research institution that fits the new Division II model perfectly.”

The Gulf South Conference has extended a formal invitation to the university to apply for membership in the league upon its acceptance into Division II.

Commissioner Nate Salant, representatives from the Gulf South member institutions and the NCAA were on campus Thursday to meet with university administrators.

 “The University of New Orleans is a perfect fit for the GSC and has interested us for quite some time,” Salant said.  “It is comparable to most of our current members in terms of its enrollment size, wide variety of undergraduate majors and advanced degrees, geographic location, facilities and resources.

“Given that the institution has committed to adding football, UNO is even more attractive now, and we look forward to sealing the deal.”

Salant said in addition to hosting championships routinely in New Orleans, the conference believes that the city could host the NCAA Division II National Championships Festival.

Earlier this year, Gulf South Conference members in Arkansas and Oklahoma left to form their own league, so the addition of New Orleans would help stabilize the conference.

The university, which now competes in nine sports under a sport-sponsorship waiver received in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, will move quickly to reach 10 sports in 2011-12. The institution plans to formally announce the new sports it will sponsor upon acceptance into Division II.

Though football will not be one of the sports announced upon acceptance into Division II, New Orleans intends to add varsity intercollegiate football in the next five years. The school has never competed at the varsity level.

“In order for this athletic department to succeed, football is a necessity,” Champion said. “For the first time in the history of this university, football is a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.”

New Orleans previously competed at the Division II level from 1969-75.