Houghton College’s move toward National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletic affiliation has taken another step forward after the Division III Membership Committee recommended the college for first-year provisional status this week.
If the recommendation is approved by the Division III Management Council later this month, Houghton will begin its first year of provisional status this fall.
Houghton, which completed its initial exploratory year by submitting a formal application in May, was one of five schools recommended for provisional membership by the committee during their meetings at the NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind.
“We are looking forward to the transitional period, being part of the Empire 8 and the NCAA and the honor of serving here during such a historic time in Houghton’s athletic history,” said Skip Lord, Houghton executive director of athletics.
As part of the transition into the NCAA, Houghton has expanded its sports offerings, joined the prestigious Empire 8 Conference, and will soon break ground on a multi-million dollar athletic complex. The college added baseball and softball this past spring, with men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s lacrosse set to play this next year, followed by men’s and women’s tennis in 2013-2014.
The development of the Kerr-Pegula multi-sport complex, made possible by a $12 million gift from Kim (Kerr ’91) Pegula and her husband, Terry Pegula, will enhance these changes. The complex will include outdoor fields and a field house to meet the demands of the expanding athletic program. Outdoor facilities will include lighted, regulation-size turf fields, and the field house will provide dedicated indoor practice space for outdoor sports over the winter and during inclement weather. The complex will provide long-sought visibility on nearby Route 19 and allow Houghton to host events that will draw visitors to campus.
The Highlanders have earned a reputation for achievements in the arena of play (with more than 40 appearances in NAIA national tournaments) and in the classroom. In 2006-07, the NAIA began designating “scholar teams,” for student-athletes who achieved a combined grade point average of 3.0. Last year alone, 10 Houghton teams made the list.
"Joining NCAA Division III is a marvelous opportunity for Houghton's athletic program and our student-athletes,” said Houghton President Shirley Mullen. “Houghton College has long subscribed to the ideals of an athletic program grounded in a larger vision of preparing students for a lifetime of excellence in all areas of their lives. We believe that this move to the NCAA-Division III will strengthen that commitment."
Houghton’s shift to NCAA is a strategic move toward increased visibility, due to the greater name recognition and number of NCAA institutions in the western and central N.Y. area. In addition, the E8 Conference is comprised of small to mid-size, academically rigorous institutions in Houghton’s geographic region.
Despite provisional members not having the opportunity to play in conference or national championships, the Highlander teams will begin playing a full E8 Conference schedule in 2012-2013 and will still have postseason opportunities through the NCCAA.