By Conor Hanlon, Currier Times Staff///
Over the past decade, there have been many schools that have transitioned athletic divisions. With the most recent of that bunch being the Stonehill College Skyhawks.
Announced on April 5th, the school came out with this statement, “Stonehill College has accepted an invitation from the Northeast Conference’s (NEC) Council of Presidents and will begin a transition to offer NCAA Division I athletics starting with the 2022-23 academic year.”
Stonehill has followed a trend that other schools like Merrimack College and the University of St. Thomas have done within the past five years. Merrimack jumped up from Division 2 to Division 1 while the University of St. Thomas jumped up from Division 3 all the way to Division 1. Division 3 schools Nichols College, and Utica College have been rumored to be filling Stonehill’s spot in their old athletic conference, the Northeast-10 Conference.
Seen on a tweet from September 12th, the Bison are reportedly being pushed in that direction by their new president, Glenn M. Sulmasy, who has a background in Division 1 with Bryant. Their new athletic director, Jack Hayes, also has a Division 1 background with Hofstra and Brown. The Currier Times attempted to reach out to both parties, but had not heard back by publication time.
Regarding the jumps made to other divisions, St. Thomas was practically excommunicated from their athletic conference for their dominance in many sports.
According to an article in the Washington Post, “UST is the first school to make the two-level jump since the current rules were put in place in 2010 by the national governing body for college sports.”
With the rumors floating around that Nichols College will be leaving the Commonwealth Coast Conference to fill Stonehill’s slot of the Northeast-10 Conference, the question arises: How does a school transfer divisions?
Firstly, a school is not eligible to join a higher division until the school receives an invitation with the conference. For example, Merrimack College accepted an invitation to join the Northeast Conference in Division 1 in 2018. However, there is a four-to-six-year reclassification point. Merrimack will not become a full-time member of the NEC until the 2023-2024 academic school year. Similarly, Stonehill won’t become a full-time member of the NEC until the 2026-2027 academic school year.
There is also a need of proof that the school trying to move up divisions have both the funds and resources to compete at the higher level.
“These movements cost a lot of money for the schools,” Curry Athletic Director, Vinnie Eruzione said. “There is usually a 5-year probationary period they undergo to see if they’ll fit in.”
The process is very long, and costly, and can take almost half a decade to finish. Now do people think Curry, should, or rather can Curry College make the transition into a higher athletic division? Some Curry athletes and students offered varying opinions to The Currier Times.
James Jackson, an MBA student on the Colonels baseball team felt it would be a challenge, but beneficial. “I feel as though it would be a good challenge for the athletic program. There would probably be more traveling involved because there aren’t as many D2 schools located near our school. Specifically for the baseball program I think it would be beneficial recruiting wise in terms of more people wanting to come play. I do believe though the competition we play in our conference right now is full of top-notch talent so I don’t think it would be a crazy jump for our team to go from D3 to D2.”
Kylie McCarthy, a sophomore elementary education major on the women’s basketball team feels that it is a good goal for the school to try and move up divisions. “I think the idea of all athletics being able to move to D2 is a strong goal to have and focus on for Curry. Right now, I believe the D3 CCC conference is full of competitive teams for Curry and can really be seen in conference play, especially during our women’s basketball season.”
Danny Grant, a junior communication major, thinks it could give the school more publicity and would allow athletic scholarships to be utilized. “I think it would be a great opportunity for the college because it gives the college and more specifically, their athletics, more publicity and recognition. It would also give the student-athletes to play on scholarships for the first time ever, which means more competition when it comes to recruiting.”
Tyler Sepinski, a junior criminal justice major, thinks the move would overall be a bit risky, and that there’s work still needed to be done before making such a transition. “If Curry moved up to be a D2 school I think that the campus would become more active with students walking and driving around, the school also would need to add more parking for students or not allow first years to have cars on campus. The athletes would also need a new field house because the teams would probably be getting more players. I feel if Curry got more parking, and we moved up it would still be a risky move if we go up to D2.”
However, when Eruzione was asked about the school’s plan for the future, this is what he had to say.
“We have not even thought of moving up to Division 2 and have no intentions to do so.”