A three-year transition process was officially completed on Friday when McKendree University was granted full membership status into Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The good news came in a communication to university officials from the NCAA on Friday. With this approval from the NCAA, McKendree will officially become active Division II members on September 1.
"McKendree University is delighted to become full members of NCAA Division II," said McKendree University President Dr. James Dennis. "We are honored to be a part of this organization. The competitive challenges will be great and our student-athletes will have the advantage of competing at a high level.
"This moment would not have been possible without the hard work of a dedicated athletics staff who all made contributions to reaching this important milestone."
Friday's announcement was the culmination of a three-year transition that began back in July 2010 when McKendree was accepted into the NCAA Division II membership process. Over that time, the Bearcat athletic department followed the requirements set forth by the NCAA in complying with rules and regulations of the organization. McKendree was accepted into membership of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) in the fall of 2010, and began competing as league members in the fall of 2012.
"This is a big day not only for our student-athletes but our staff and our university," said Chuck Brueggemann, director of athletics at McKendree. "Our staff has worked incredibly hard to pull this together, this is a historic day that is going to forever change this institution."
McKendree served as provisional members of NCAA Division II during the 2012-13 academic year. During that 12-month period, the NCAA required McKendree to function like an NCAA Division II institution, adhering to all rules and guidelines set forth by the organization. Additions were made to several of the University's athletic facilities, including the renovation and installation of lights at the softball field.
New wireless scoreboards were installed at the three outdoor fields on campus, while office space and meeting areas for coaches and staff were also created.
Plans are also in place to add a 7,500-square foot wrestling room as a dedicated practice facility and a 7,500-square foot weight room and conditioning facility with state-of-the-art equipment.
The expectations for game management services at McKendree were raised to help improve the overall experience for fans attending and student-athletes participating in Bearcat athletic events.
McKendree also implemented a program for hiring graduate assistant coaches to allow for an expanded recruiting base. A new strength and conditioning coach was hired for the department as well.
Also during the provisional year, McKendree announced the addition of three new programs, boosting the total number of sports offered at the institution to 24. Men's volleyball, women's wrestling and bass fishing will all begin their first season of competition at McKendree in 2013-14.
"Every year in the process is important, but the provisional year is especially important," said Brueggemann. "We were expected to act as a full member of NCAA Division II. We had to raise the bar as it relates to our fan experience, the experience of the visiting teams in the conference, and our overall hospitality.
"Our facilities have to be at the appropriate level not only for the GLVC, but for other schools that compete at the NCAA Division II level. I'm very pleased that we were able to meet and exceed those expectations."
The progress made by the Bearcat athletic department during its provisional year of NCAA membership built upon the accomplishments during the first two years of the transition process.
Along with the acceptance into GLVC membership, highlights from Year One Candidacy (2010-11) included the hiring of a full-time compliance officer, the designation of a senior women's administrator and the creation of a compliance handbook.
During its Year Two Candidacy period in 2011-12, numerous committees were formed and began to actively function within the University's framework.
Also in 2011-12, women's lacrosse was officially added as McKendree's newest active sport. The Bearcat women's lacrosse squad made its debut this past spring. It was also decided that women's bowling will compete as an NCAA-sponsored sport.
With Friday's news, all Bearcat athletic programs that fall under the umbrella of NCAA competition are now eligible for postseason play. McKendree has not competed in the postseason since they wrapped up membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in 2010-11.