Northern Kentucky University has a rich tradition in Division II athletic history. In the last 15 years the NKU Men's Basketball has been the National Runner Up twice, the Women's Basketball team has won two championships, Men's Soccer won the National Championship this fall and the Women's Soccer team was the National Runner Up in 2000. And the golf, tennis, volleyball and baseball teams have won multiple Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships. NKU President Jim Votruba confirmed yesterday that discussions have begun with the NKU Board of Regents to apply to become a Division I school. He views this move as a great marketing and branding opportunity for the University.
The Division I discussion has been going on for some time at NKU. In the past NKU lacked the facilities appropriate for Division I. That has all changed now. The Bank of Kentucky Center is more than equipped for Division I sports. A state of the art soccer field was just opened last fall. A new softball facility has just opened. And, the tennis courts and baseball fields are currently being upgraded. To make the move to DI the school does need to have 14 athletic programs, so NKU has to add one more sport. Because of major costs, that discussion will not include football. They are leaning towards adding a women's track and field team.
If you're wondering what conference NKU may land with, there are two in discussion. The Ohio Valley Conference seems most likely. There are natural rivalries in that conference. The OVC already has Murray State, Morehead, and Eastern Kentucky University. And, football is not a requirement. NKU seems like a natural fit. NKU would enter the OVC as the largest school in the conference. The other possibility that has been mentioned is the Horizon League, now made famous because of the Butler Bulldogs. Recently a few DII teams have moved to Division I without acquiring any conference approval (i.e. Cal State Bakersfield) and are now an Independent school begging for a conference invitation. President Votruba said that NKU will not move until a conference has accepted the university.
The University plans on applying for Division I this fall. All arenas would have to approved and a conference move approved. The earliest that we may see Division I basketball in Highland Heights, KY is the 2012-13 season. There is usually a 4 year transition period before schools can compete for DI championships. I'm sure we'll see more information soon.