The Mississippi College Athletic Department was proud to announce earlier today the National Collegiate Athletic Association has granted the school permission to rejoin Division II. The JFP received this press release just before noon:
Mississippi College can now move forward to become an NCAA Division II member and rejoin the Gulf South Conference, NCAA officials said Friday.
After being initially turned down earlier this summer, Mississippi College leaders appealed. The NCAA Membership Committee overturned the earlier decision to pave the way for acceptance into the Division II membership process.
“We’re on our way to Division II,” MC Vice President for Advancement Bill Townsend said today. “It’s a great day for Mississippi College athletics and athletes.”
Returning to the Gulf South Conference – MC was a member from 1972 through 1996 – the Choctaws will renew rivalries with teams like Delta State, West Alabama, Valdosta State, North Alabama, and face new Baptist-affiliated opponents like Union University of Jackson, Tennessee and Shorter University of Rome, Georgia.
“This is a great day for the Gulf South Conference,” said GSC Commissioner Michael Salant, who was reached in New York at the time of the announcement on the Clinton campus.
With the additions of all-sports members Shorter, Union, Lee University and Mississippi College plus Florida Tech in football and West Florida to start football, the GSC, “is more cohesive and stronger than it probably ever has been,” he said.
“It’s great to renew old rivalries and establish some new ones,” said Townsend, who worked on the appeal in recent weeks with MC trustee Andy Taggart and others at the Christian university. “As we transition into Division II, we will miss our American Southwest Conference friends.”
MC President Lee Royce and Athletic Director Mike Jones scheduled a press conference at noon at the A.E. Wood Coliseum to discuss details of the move from NCAA Division III to Division II.
There is a lengthy process involved as Mississippi College becomes part of the Division II candidacy starting with the 2013-14 academic year.
MC leaders will need to continue to meet with NCAA leaders every year for three years to remain in good standing.
Why go Division II?
In terms of academics and stronger retention efforts, MC leaders say they are pleased to be one of the 300 NCAA Division II colleges and universities nationwide that count 100,000 student-athletes on their rosters. NCAA reports show 73 percent of the freshmen Division II athletes who entered school in 2004 received college degrees six years later.
The move to play athletic opponents in the region in the Birmingham-based Gulf South Conference will greatly reduce travel time for MC student-athletes and enable the Choctaws to receive greater media exposure around the South and nation. Every fall, CSS broadcasts GSC games of the week.
Mississippi College student-athletes were pleased to hear that the Baptist-affiliated school will be returning to the GSC and Division II. It means athletic scholarships will become available once again for MC students who participate in the 15 NCAA sports on the Clinton campus.
“I feel there will be better opportunities for athletes in Division II,” said men’s cross country team member Keegan Kurpakus, 18, a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Athletic scholarships will be helpful.”
MC freshman Lucas Bishop, 18, a cross country runner from Mobile, Alabama applauded the move. “It gives a lot of athletes something to shoot for.” He’s looking forward to competing against teams like Delta State. He believes the scholarships will help improve the university’s retention rates. Bishop is receiving academic scholarships to study biology/pre-med at the university.
For more information go to mc.edu/d2 or check the MC athletics website.