NCAA approves Cedarville for Division II membership

Move marks the culmination of a 3-year process for university.

Transition timeline

March 2009: Announcement made that Cedarville will apply for NCAA Division II membership.

July 2009: Application approved for Candidacy Year 1.

July 2010: Approval granted for Candidacy Year 2.

July 2011: Approval granted for Provisional Year.

July 2012: Approved for active D-II membership.

Division II conferences in Ohio

Great Midwest Athletic Conference — Ohio: Cedarville, Central State¹, Notre Dame College ², Urbana¹, Ursuline³; Virginia: Wise University; Tennessee: Trevecca Nazarene. Kentucky: Kentucky Wesleyan, Georgetown.

Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference — Ohio: Ashland, Findlay, Lake Erie, Malone, Ohio Dominican, Tiffin, Walsh; Michigan: Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Hillsdale, Lake Superior, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Northwood, Saginaw Valley, Wayne State.

¹ Central State and Urbana compete in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in football only.

² Notre Dame College is also a member of the GLIAC in football, men’s and women’s soccer and wrestling.

³ Ursuline is a women’s-only college.

By David Jablonski

Staff Writer

CEDARVILLE — Kirk Martin still finds himself thumbing through the NCAA rule book or texting Cedarville University’s compliance officer all the time. It’s not something you learn overnight, and even if you’ve passed all the tests proving you know the rules, you might need a refresher course from time to time.

“I’ve been here 12 years, and think I lead the coaching staff in minor rules violations,” Martin joked, “just by doing things we always used to do in the NAIA.”

Martin’s women’s basketball program played a full NCAA Division II schedule for the first time last season, and that will continue because the NCAA informed Cedarville on Thursday it had been approved for full active membership beginning Sept. 1.

Thursday’s announcement marked the end of a process that began in March 2009 when Cedarville announced it was leaving NAIA Division II to apply for NCAA membership. For the last three years, Cedarville has jumped through numerous NCAA hoops to get to this day.

“We have believed for some time we were going to get accepted,” Cedarville Athletic Director Alan Geist said. “But when someone else is controlling your destiny and making decisions, all kinds of things can happen. We were a little bit nervous earlier today.”

Cedarville joined a wave of NAIA schools moving to NCAA Division II when it announced its decision in 2009. Among the area schools, Central State took the first step, becoming a full-fledged NCAA member in 2008 after years in the NAIA. Urbana announced its move in 2007 and became a full member in 2010.

The NCAA doesn’t let just anyone in the door and grew stingy with invitations in recent years because many new NCAA schools were having trouble with violations, Geist said. In recent years, the NCAA has approved eight to nine schools per year.

For Cedarville, the process started with the hiring of a NCAA compliance coordinator, Drew Howard. He played a key role over the last three years and helped guide the coaches through the learning process. All the coaches had to pass tests regarding NCAA rules before they could start recruiting.

“We had classes, and we took practice tests,” Martin said. “Drew was on top of everything. It was important to him that we followed the rules closely. He’s a nice guy, so you want to make him happy.”

The other big change for Cedarville was moving its coaches away from teaching courses. The NCAA requires schools seeking to move to D-II to have coaches committed full time to the athletes.

“(The NCAA) will not define on a piece of paper what full time is. We had to define that,” Geist said. “Some of our coaches teach a little bit — two or three hours — but it is a minor part of their job. The student athletes needed to have access to our coaches.”

With Notre Dame College also earning active status Thursday, there are now nine NCAA D-II schools in Ohio, and three more could become full NCAA members in 2013: Malone, Ursuline and Walsh. Five of those schools used to belong to the American Mideast Conference: Cedarville, Ursuline, Urbana, Notre Dame and Malone.

The AMC, which had 18 teams and two divisions six years ago, now has eight schools. Three of those are on their way to Division II, and two others announced a move to a new NAIA conference last week. In other words, the one time mega-conference may cease to exist in the coming years.

Cedarville and Urbana’s new league, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, has eight members, including Urbana and Central State. Only five of those have football teams, which is why Urbana and Central State are continuing to compete in the Great Lakes Valley Conference in football only.

Cedarville is being pressured to add football, Geist said, and it is considering adding more sports, including football.

“We began to think about new sports three years ago,” Geist said. “One of the things (President William Brown) and I decided was we weren’t going to add any sports until we got through this process. We have a committee working on where to go from here."