Spartanburg, S.C. – During a press conference in May of 2006, USC Upstate announced its plan to transition its athletics program from NCAA Division II status to NCAA Division I membership while accepting an invitation to join the Atlantic Sun Conference. So began a process that culminated Thursday when the NCAA Executive Committee voted to approve Upstate’s full certification into the Division I ranks.
Upstate began competing as a Division I institution and members of the A-Sun in the fall of 2007. The Spartans were provisional members of Division I, meaning the school could play a Division I schedule, but its teams could not earn an automatic bid nor play in NCAA Tournaments until the 2011-12 academic year, pending a successful transition and a final vote of approval by the Executive Committee. Two sports, softball and men’s soccer, were allowed to be fast-tracked into full membership and began competing for postseason play in 2009-10, while the 15 other sports were prohibited from even having the possibility of postseason NCAA play.
As part of the transition to Division I membership, the university also had to undertake an NCAA-mandated Self-Study and issue a report to the NCAA for its review. A peer team came to campus to review the report and meet with several individuals from across the university. The group gave its positive recommendation to the Executive Committee this past spring.
With Thursday’s vote of approval, Upstate has now become a full member of Division I. In addition to all of its teams being able to compete for a spot in A-Sun and NCAA Tournaments, the athletics department will also be given access to the NCAA’s revenue sharing program in funds it generates from the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament as well as other grants and scholarships not afforded member institutions who are classified as provisional members.
“Achieving approval in our transition to NCAA Division I membership is another step for USC Upstate in reaching its goal of becoming the Southeast’s leading metropolitan university,” said Dr. Thomas Moore, chancellor of USC Upstate. “This has been a tremendous undertaking and everyone involved is to be commended for their hard work. Successfully achieving this goal is directly tied to the overall mission of USC Upstate and certainly demonstrates the continued progress of this institution.”
Upstate has enjoyed a myriad of success since moving to Division I in 2007. During the department’s first year of Division I play in 2007-08, Upstate won the A-Sun regular season championship in women’s tennis and a share of the regular season title in softball. The men’s golf team won two team and six individual tournament titles and the baseball team posted a 17-16 record in conference play.
Upstate claimed the 2010 A-Sun regular season championship in men’s tennis and the softball program played for the A-Sun Tournament title in its first year of eligibility in the event. The track & field program has won 14 individual A-Sun championships. Just last year, the track & field team won three A-Sun individual championships and Gilbert Kemboi won the A-Sun cross country championship. The softball team won a Division I-era school record 42 games while securing the department’s first-ever win against a PAC-10 school with its 2-1 win over Oregon State and the first top 25 national ranking for any sport at Upstate during the Division I era. Softball pitcher Morgan Childers became the A-Sun’s all-time leader with 113 career wins. The women’s basketball team earned the school’s first-ever national postseason tournament berth after winning 18 games with A-Sun Player of the Year Chelsea McMillan dominating the conference.
Upstate has garnered several individual honors since joining Division I and the A-Sun. In four years, Upstate has had 103 all-conference selections with six individuals earning Player/Runner/Most Outstanding Performer of the Year honors. With recruiting a central part in the development of each program, 28 Spartan student-athletes have been named to the A-Sun All-Freshman team with eight earning Freshman/Runner/Most Outstanding Freshman Performer honors. While the Spartans have done well in competition, they have also excelled in the classroom with 521 selections to the A-Sun All-Academic team.
“I am very proud for our University and athletics department to receive full NCAA Division 1 athletic certification,” said Mike Hall, Director of Athletics. “The four year provisional process has been long and difficult; however, it has definitely made us better prepared in all phases of our athletics department. I am most pleased for our student-athletes and coaches that are now eligible to qualify for both Atlantic Sun and NCAA post-season championships. There are many people to thank from our self-study committee who spent long hours and when above and beyond their main duties to examine our strengths and weaknesses and to give us direction as we move forward. Our Chair, Dr. Diane Daane was exceptional in her leadership to get us through the process and to make the necessary decisions for our plan as we move forward.”
Upstate fields 17 athletic teams which compete for A-Sun Championships and appearances in NCAA Championship events. The university fields men’s teams in baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis and indoor and outdoor track & field. The university fields women’s teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and volleyball.