After one exploratory year and four years of provisional status, Houghton College has been approved for full membership in NCAA Division III, effective September 1.

The NCAA Division III Membership Committee made its decision at its annual meetings on June 23 and 24.

Among other benefits, full membership makes Houghton eligible for NCAA championships, gives the institution voting privileges at the NCAA Convention, and covers student-athletes under the NCAA catastrophic athletics injury insurance plan.

“We are extremely thankful and excited about the NCAA’s decision to accept us as full members of NCAA Division III,” said Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics H. “Skip” Lord. “We knew that this move was the best fit for us and the mission of the institution, and we were blessed to find the perfect home for our teams in the Empire 8. The college administrators, faculty, coaches, staff and our student-athletes worked together to make this happen, and they have been very patient as we have journeyed together the past five years. This move will benefit our teams and athletes for years to come and we are excited to pursue our first NCAA championship opportunities in 2016-17.”

Houghton began the process with an exploratory year in 2011 as it transitioned from the NAIA. The college joined the Empire 8 Conference when it began the four-year provisional membership process in 2012. That transition also included an expansion to its athletics offerings, with the addition of baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s lacrosse. The construction of the Kerr-Pegula Field House, as well as lighted turf fields for baseball and softball also occurred during the move.

During the transition, Houghton renewed its membership in the National Christian College Athletic Association. At the start of the 2014 season, the Empire 8 began allowing Highlander teams to participate in its postseason tournaments and included Houghton in its annual Commissioner’s Cup sport rankings.

“This is an historic achievement for Houghton College,” said Houghton Vice President for Student Life Dr. Robert Pool. “For our students, this solidifies their hopes and anticipation for full opportunities in the highest levels of competition, our coaches, the culmination of perseverance, and for our leadership team and the President and donors, the realization of a great vision.”

The membership process includes all areas of the college to ensure the institution is operating the program in a way that reflects the NCAA mission and is in compliance with the expectations of NCAA membership.

“This has been a long process that has involved the hard work of many people,” said Lord. “We are especially thankful for our friends at the NCAA who have helped us along the way; the NCAA Membership Committee and our two mentors, Chris Diaz, AD at Baldwin-Wallace University and Heather Benning, Executive Director of the Midwest Conference; the presidents and athletics administrators of the Empire 8 Conference, led by Commissioner Chuck Mitrano and Associate Commissioner Janelle Zera; the Houghton College Athletics Advisory Board; and all the students, staff and faculty here at Houghton who have worked so hard to make this a reality.”

“I’d also like to thank our friends at the NCAA whom we’ve had the privilege to work with and get to know during this process. We are also very appreciative of those on campus who worked so hard and supported this move.”