Covenant Accepted as a Provisional Member of NCAA Division III
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III has accepted Covenant College into provisional membership beginning in the 2009-2010 academic year.
Covenant is one of three schools in the country granted provisional membership this year; Berry College (Georgia) and Penn State-Abington have also become provisional members of the NCAA Division III.
"This represents an important direction for Covenant athletics," said Covenant College President Niel Nielson, "and I'm delighted that we are becoming part of this first-rate affiliation."
The NCAA Division III places the principal priority on academics, and understands the integrated, supportive role of intercollegiate athletics under that principal priority. Division III holds an explicit expectation that the academic performance of student-athletes will be similar to that of non-athletes. Compared to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), from which Covenant is transitioning, the NCAA Division III has shorter practice and playing seasons, as well as fewer games per season, which means that student-athletes will miss fewer classes.
"Division III offers a profile of the student-athlete which corresponds well with both the tradition of Covenant athletics and our aspirations for the future: an academically motivated, multi-talented, highly purposeful Christian student for whom the opportunity to get a great education is complemented by the opportunity to participate in a first-rate college sport," said President Nielson. "Given Covenant's outstanding track record of scholastic achievement and graduation rate among our student-athletes, our affiliation with the NCAA Division III promises to enhance even further the unique combination of learning, playing, and living that Covenant offers."
In addition, the elimination of athletic financial aid puts all students, regardless of athletic participation, on equal footing for financial aid. Covenant stopped awarding athletic aid to new students last year, and has seen a favorable transition since the College's student-athletes have traditionally demonstrated similar academic success as non-athletes.
The financial obligations of the NCAA Division III are also beneficial: lower annual dues, reduced travel time and expenses, and costs of postseason play beyond conference tournaments borne by the association.
Because Covenant is not eligible for postseason competition within the NCAA or the NAIA during the four-year provisional membership phase, Covenant has also joined the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), with which the College will compete in postseason tournament play.
"This is truly an exciting time for our athletic department and we look forward to all this transition has to offer," said Director of Athletics Tami Smialek. "I am blessed to have a coaching staff that has embraced and supported our pursuit of NCAA Division III membership. We feel this move will not only enhance our role within the mission of the College but will also continue to strengthen the academic experience for our student-athletes while allowing them to maximize their athletic experience."