Year two of switch to NCAA presents new challenges

Gresham announces acceptance into NCAA Div-II membership process
University president Dr. Loren Gresham announced SNU’s acceptance into the NCAA Div-II membership process in July 2011. SNU has entered the second year of the process. (Photo from snuathletics.com)

By Matthew Wellman

Southern Nazarene University’s athletics are making the switch from NAIA to NCAA Division II. SNU is currently in a probationary period in which it is not eligible to win either conference or national titles. Because we are not playing our official conference schedule yet, the teams were forced to schedule games whenever and wherever they could get them. This has caused the fall sports to travel much more than they are accustomed to.

Senior soccer player Kendra Nixon said of the travelling, “It’s difficult trying to keep up with classes with how much we’re on the road, especially when we have been missing a lot of class. Thankfully, most of my professors are understanding and are willing to work with us and our busy schedule.”

After this year, we will be into our official conference schedule and there will be more consistency in the travelling for all teams. As for this year, it will be a struggle for every athlete to keep up with his or her class work.

Student athletes are held accountable for their schoolwork and must maintain a certain grade point average in order to stay eligible on the field. For athletes, it is always tough staying up with the work during a normal season, but the extra travelling creates another obstacle.

“For me, keeping up with the actual assignments isn’t difficult, it’s finding the time and strength to study in between all of the games and practices,” said junior soccer player Sara Eguren. “Its exhausting playing and traveling and then trying to stay focused when I do find the time to study.”

Every athlete struggles balancing time. For some, it may be tough to have a social life and others may struggle more in the classroom, but everybody must find a way to keep their grades up.

Since no sports team can win any sort of championship this year, some may feel like there could be a lack of competitive spirit within the teams. Junior football player Brennan DiChiara doesn’t feel like this will be a problem for the football team.

When asked if he thinks the team will lose a sense of urgency to win games, he replied, “Not at all. We’re a competitive group of guys, and proving ourselves against a new conference and division is all the motivation we need to keep striving to be the best.”

Then there are others like junior Jarod Martin who thinks there may be a lack of competitive spirit in the locker room.

“I believe the coaches keep us engaged, and as athletes we obviously have a competitive spirit and we don’t want to lose, but I know the reality of not competing for conference or a national championship is in the back of everyone’s mind,” Martin said.

All in all, this year will prove to be a struggle for every student athlete here at SNU. But with moving up to NCAA Division II, there will be better competition, which is something every athlete wants. If you ask any athlete here on campus if they think the hardships that will come with this year are worth the switch, I believe the answer will be a resounding “yes”.

-Learn more about the NCAA membership process, including frequently asked questions, at snuathletics.com under the “Why NCAA” tab.

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