College eyes NCAA membership

Members of the UVa-Wise football team cheer after freshman defensive end Parrish Kelley picked off a Warrior pass and returned it for a 40-yard touchdown on Sept. 3.

By Jordan Fifer

UVa-Wise could become a member of the NCAA by 2015 if a league review process goes according to schedule, officials announced last month.

The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Division II league, invited the college in early August to begin the process of becoming a member, UVa-Wise and league officials said in dual news releases.
The 15-member league unanimously voted to invite UVa-Wise to return an interest letter seeking consideration for membership, officials said in a news release.

“We reached out to the WVIAC and, after careful consideration, they extended an invitation for an Expression of Interest letter,” said Danny Sterling, the school’s athletic director.

Sterling said the college submitted such an interest letter to the WVIAC, which begins a review process that could end in league membership.

League officials will assess the interest letter and decide on the next steps, said WVIAC Commissioner Barry Blizzard.

The earliest college officials could apply for membership in the NCAA would be June 1, 2012. From there, the three-year review process would follow.

UVa-Wise is currently a member of the Mid-South Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which includes 17 schools in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee,  Virginia and West Virginia.

The WVIAC currently has 15 schools in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. King College, in Bristol, Tenn., started the process of moving from the NAIA in 2007 and will become a full NCAA Division II member this year.

The potential move to the NCAA is the latest in a series of positive moves for UVa-Wise’s athletic program. The college recently spent $440,000 to install new AstroTurf in Carl Smith Stadium and the athletic department redesigned the school logo last year.

In early October, the school is set to formally open the new $30 million convocation center, which will house basketball and volleyball games, as well as concerts and other events.

“It is our intention to be open, honest and as transparent as possible as we study our affiliation and a potential move into NCAA Division II,” Sterling said. “And we welcome feedback and community involvement in the process.”

Photo by Jordan Fifer | The Highland Cavalier

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