HELENA -- Could a move to NCAA Division II be in Carroll College’s future?
Saints athletic director Bruce Parker said this week that the school is exploring its options for conference membership.
“Carroll College is constantly evaluating what is best for our institution in all regards — academically, athletically and beyond,” Parker said. “In regards to athletics, we have received a letter of encouragement and support from the commissioner of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. We are in the exploratory phase in collecting and reviewing information both internally and externally to help better evaluate where we belong. Carroll College is exercising its due diligence in all facets of this process.
“We feel that the GNAC boasts and exemplary collection of schools and are flattered by their interest in our institution. At this time we are purely interested in taking time to examine how are affiliations align with our strategic plans.”
GNAC commissioner Dave Haglund said the NCAA Division II conference’s target number for full-time membership institutions is 12, and that the GNAC expects to have the 11th spot filled this fall with the anticipation of adding Concordia University-Portland.
“The GNAC is extremely impressed with Carroll College, and our conference leadership has offered encouragement and support for the institution as it explores its membership options,” Haglund said. “Right now, we believe it is appropriate to give Carroll College the time and space it needs for its own internal due diligence.”
Haglund said the annual deadline for membership applications is Feb. 1 of each year. He said Concordia University-Portland will learn from the NCAA this summer whether or not it is admitted. Haglund explained that every NCAA applicant needs a conference sponsor.
“As part of your application, you need to identify and secure a conference home,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to get in.”
Haglund added that most schools that enter NCAA Division II come from the NAIA, and that each college goes through an internal process while examining if it is a good move. He said the GNAC looks at whether a school is a good fit academically, athletically and geographically.
Right now, the GNAC’s permanent members are Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks, Central Washington, Montana State Billings, Northwest Nazarene, Saint Martin’s, Seattle Pacific, Simon Fraser, Western Oregon and Western Washington.
Azusa Pacific, a former NAIA member, announced it was making the jump to NCAA DII in the summer of 2011. It is a football-only member of the GNAC, one of five affiliate members of the league. Other schools — former Carroll College foes — also recently left the NAIA to go to NCAA Division II, including Sioux Falls (S.D.) and Lindenwood University (Mo.).
Fellow Frontier Conference member Westminster College formerly accepted an invitation to join the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, pending NCAA approval, after a 35-year hiatus. Westminster was formerly a member of the RMAC from 1967-1979, when varsity athletics were dropped for a time.
Once accepted by the NCAA, the Griffins would then enter a three-year membership process, beginning RMAC competition as early as the 2015-16 academic year.