FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is athletic divisional alignment part of Bellarmine’s strategic plan?
Since 2005, Bellarmine has successfully competed at the DI level in men’s lacrosse. Our athletics staff is familiar with the requirements and challenges that accompany DI membership.
The move to DI will support Bellarmine’s already-high academic standards for our student-athletes, while extending the university’s geographic reach and broadening awareness of, and engagement with, the university. This can make Bellarmine more attractive to all students—athletes and non-athletes alike—which will support enrollment growth, improve diversity, achieve better gender balance and attract more international students. In addition, the increased exposure will greatly enhance institutional awareness, improve communication with stakeholders within Kentucky and the region and expand partnership opportunities.
What is the timing to move to DI?
Bellarmine will compete in DII in the 2019-20 school year and make the move to compete at the DI level in the 2020-21 school year.
Can Bellarmine compete with DI schools?
Bellarmine already competes effectively in men’s lacrosse and has for 15 years. Bellarmine has a long and distinguished history of success in men’s basketball competing at, or near, the top of DII for many years. In the 2018-19 season alone, the Knights won national titles in track and field, dance and cheer. Men’s basketball and baseball also took conference titles while men’s and women’s soccer and women’s basketball were conference tourney runners-up.
We believe in our student-athletes and our coaches. Our coaches have long recruited DI caliber student-athletes who chose to play in DII. Other schools of similar size, such as Abilene Christian and Lipscomb, which have qualified for the NCAA tournament in recent years, have demonstrated that smaller institutions that have reclassified can compete.
How did you choose which conference to join? Why ASUN?
First, it is important to note that a conference must invite a school to join, and if that invitation is accepted, then the formal application is made to the NCAA to move to DI.
Throughout Bellarmine’s study of a potential DI transition, it was evident that an invitation from a conference providing the right fit is paramount to success. And we wanted a conference partner that helps realize the priorities of the strategic plan—including providing a transformative student experience, expanding our geographic reach and impact and demonstrating commitment to equity and inclusion.
As part of this, our ideal conference partner would offer the opportunity to greatly expand our geographic reach into large metropolitan areas in eastern and southeastern cities beyond our traditional recruiting boundaries. Further, in greatly increasing student recruiting geographically, there is greater opportunity to become a more diverse and inclusive institution. The increased media exposure that accompanies a DI move not only increases our visibility in those large markets but provides additional financial resources to ensure our financial strength and stability.
ASUN also offers us the important opportunity to compete in conference tournaments in the first year after the transition to DI. Many other conferences require transitioning schools to wait several years, which can be a detriment to recruiting. For all these factors, ASUN is a great conference fit for Bellarmine.
How long will it take to be competitive at the DI level?
Transitions are challenging, but that’s the nature of sport. Bellarmine believes in its student-athletes and coaches and we are confident we can establish ourselves quickly as a competitive program. The first two years in a new conference (2020-21 and 2021-22) are anticipated to be the most difficult due to the dynamics of recruitment and limits on post-season play. With each passing year of the reclassification process, these challenges will lessen, and BU will have the opportunity to demonstrate its growing commitment to excellence.
Many other schools, including Lipscomb, Abilene Christian, Northern Kentucky and more, have successfully made the transition and competed well in their conferences.
Will Bellarmine be able to handle the increase in costs for DI athletics without affecting other parts of the university?
Yes, BU is committed to close monitoring of athletic expenses in order to continue to promote the academic core of the institution. The construction of a financial plan built around this goal has been an essential part of the exploration of a move to DI. A new development plan is in process to fund the transition cost of specific facility upgrades and operational expenses over the next five years so as not to divert resources from academic programs. Additionally, fundraising for athletics is done in conjunction with the university’s other fundraising efforts, in order to ensure we maximize opportunities and that one does not take away from the other.
The administration and Board of Trustees are mindful of athletics expenditures as a percentage of the university’s total budget. In planning for a DI transition, the percentage of the total spend will remain the same, and the funding plan will cap the amount of direct support provided to athletics from the university at generally the same level it has been over the past several years. Keeping athletic spending consistent with prior budgets represents an important institutional commitment to fiscal responsibility.