North Alabama Move to Division I & Membership in the ASC
Florence, AL (Dec. 7, 2016) – The University of North Alabama athletic programs will move to Division I starting in the 2018-19 season, bringing to a close five and half years of speculation about the university's athletic future. UNA announced it will join the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) with a unanimous vote of the UNA Board of Trustees.
UNA will compete in the ASUN in all sports except football starting July 1, 2018. UNA football will compete in the Big South Conference beginning at the same point through an affiliation agreement ASUN and Big South announced in September.
In June 2011, UNA officials approved a resolution setting Division I as a target, with Collegiate Consulting completing a feasibility study and strategic plan. The target was pushed to the peripheral when UNA did not receive a conference invitation. Then, about 18 months ago, administrators and the Board of Trustees re-engaged in the exploration of transitioning to Division I, with an updated feasibility study completed by Collegiate Consulting.
In 2011, Collegiate Consulting’s study focused on securing an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference, the same conference as its historical rival Jacksonville State.
To move to Division I athletics, UNA will pay a $1.57 million NCAA application fee. UNA athletics will supplement its allocation with $1.5 million in additional funding raised through sponsorship, fundraising, and ticket sales. By 2022, that number needs to grow to approximately $3.1 million to be in line with athletic budgets within the ASUN. The Collegiate Consulting study noted that UNA will grow its athletic scholarships from 121.2 to 180 by fall of 2022.
UNA is the fourth partner of Collegiate Consulting to make the move from Division II to Division I, with Northern Kentucky, UMass – Lowell and Grand Canyon University having previously made the transition.