Process FAQ and Survey Results

Letter and FAQ sent with survey to the USI Community on December 6, 2021

USI Family, 

In late September, the campus community received an announcement from President Rochon regarding the exploration into the potential feasibility of a move from Division II to Division I athletics. This feasibility review has progressed to the point that we are now collecting input from students, employees and retirees to add to the growing pool of data which will be provided to the President for review and the Board of Trustees for action.

While this topic is complex, in order to have a more informed perspective on what such a move might mean for USI, we encourage you to carefully review the following information and provide your feedback via the survey link.

Thank you for taking the time to offer your input by completing the brief survey.


Jon Mark Hall, Athletic Director and Dr. Nick LaRowe, Associate Professor of Political Science

Co-chairs of the DI Exploratory Committee

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:

Q1: Why is USI considering DI athletics now?

A1: The University has been a strong competitor across a number of sports and has a winning history. There have been 10 individual and four team national championships. In addition, the institution has a proud tradition of scholarship among our student-athletes with Academic All-American status across all sports. These factors have caught the attention of officials in Division I who have sought us out and invited us to consider a move. Finally, the University’s current strategic plan has a stated goal of elevating visibility and reputation. This is one way that may help us to make progress in that stated goal.

Q2: A campus exploratory committee was formed. What is its task?

A2: A group of 25 individuals representing the USI governance bodies, faculty, staff, students, coaches and community members have been meeting regularly to research, develop and make a report available to the USI Board of Trustees. The report will be based upon criteria in a checklist set forth by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) about college readiness for Division I athletics. For each area of the checklist, subcommittees are asked to assess if the University is at 1, 2 or 3.

  • 1 – ready to make the transition now
  • 2 – ready to make the transition with minor adjustments
  • 3– more than minor adjustments needed (moderate to major)

It is not the committee’s role to make a final recommendation to the Board or President, but rather to gather information for their consideration. 

At the same time, an outside consulting firm that specializes in these types of assessments has been providing information to the group and is developing its own report for senior leadership review.

Q3: Who will make the ultimate decision to stay in Division II play or move to Division I?

A3: Ultimately, the USI Board of Trustees will consider all the information provided (including feedback from this survey, financial modeling, and reports from the consultant and USI DI Exploratory Committee) and render a decision about what path to take. That decision is likely to come early in 2022, although it may be later than the regular Board meeting on Thursday, January 13. A special session of the Board is possible.

Q4: What will it cost the University to compete at the DI level?

A4: The University currently spends approximately $6.6 million on athletics annually to compete at the Division II level. To move to Division I, there are enhanced expectations for primarily two areas—additional scholarships/grants-in-aid for student-athletes and added staff to support a Division I athletics program.

Although the level of expenses varies by conference, based on the range of expenditures of a possible conference partner, financial modeling puts additional annual costs at approximately $5.4 million, for a total budget of $12 million ($6.6 million current spend + DI additional spend $5.4 = $12 million).

Twelve million is approximately 10% of the overall $121 million University spend for fiscal year 2021.

Q5: Where would that additional funding come from if the decision is to move forward?

A5: There are a variety of funding sources, for example, ticket sales, advertising, conference revenue share and others, but these are likely ancillary sources. The two primary funding sources would be new private gifts/donations and student fees. 

Q6: Is there an estimate of how much a student fee might be if the decision is to move toward Division I athletics?

A6: Yes, financial modeling has been done to consider a range of options. A proposed four-year financial model would increase student fees by $475 per year at the end of four years.

To achieve this, semester fees would be:

Fall 2022 academic year $60 per semester

Fall 2023 academic year $120 per semester

Fall 2024 academic year $180 per semester

Fall 2025 academic year $238 per semester 

This model may be adjusted at the discretion of the USI Board of Trustees. The Board must approve all student fees. 

Q7: How much private giving would be needed to support DI under this model?

A7:  It is estimated that donor support would be needed at an additional $2.4 million in new monies. Much like the estimated student fees, this could be funded over several years to achieve the $2.4 million but then would need to be sustained at that level annually.

Q8. How would moving to Division I affect us academically or our enrollment?

A8: The University continues to invest in academic programs and implement new programs to meet student needs and internal competencies, for example, the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program. Additional funding for athletics will need to be generated from new monies, primarily from private donations and student fees, not repurposed existing funding. Our student-athletes historically both perform at a highly competitive level and have among the highest retention rates, grade point averages and graduation rates of the student body.

In regard to possible additional student enrollment, some institutions new to Division I have seen increased enrollment, and some have not.

Q9: What is going on with the NCAA? I’ve heard about an upcoming Constitutional Convention.

A9: Yes, this situation is being monitored as the NCAA is considering several changes. A Constitutional Convention and vote is scheduled to take place on January 20, 2022. We believe that the vote will likely decentralize a number of programs and services and allow each of the three NCAA Divisions (I, II and III) more autonomy to make decisions for themselves. It seems likely that Division I will consider significant changes that could alter how Division I operates and manages their affairs. Any legislated changes from the Constitutional Convention would most likely not become effective until late summer 2022. However, changes may occur in the nearer term, including the  possibility the NCAA may not accept new applications for any prospective Division I member.

Q10: What conference(s) are we considering?

A10: There are three Division I regional conferences the consultants have reviewed and will provide information about in their report to the Board. One of these three has approached USI with interest in us. However, at this time, it would be premature to disclose the names of those conferences. It is worth noting that there have been numerous membership changes in and out of several Division I conferences in recent months.

Q11: If we did move forward, what is the process?

A11: The NCAA lays out a four-year transition process. There are three NCAA criteria that USI must address to be considered for reclassification from DII to DI: 

  1. Active Division II membership for the preceding five years 
  2. Compliance with sport sponsorship and financial aid membership requirements  
  3. A membership offer from an active Division I multi-sport conference  

Right now, USI meets 2 of the 3 criteria. Currently, the University does not have a formal membership offer from an active Division I multi-sport conference but would anticipate receiving an offer should USI decide to move forward and apply for Division I membership.  

If a decision is reached to move forward, the University must submit an application and fee to the NCAA not later than June 1, 2022. If the application is accepted, we then proceed to a four-year timeline based around a submitted strategic plan. The plan is evaluated for progress toward stated goals and meeting NCAA criteria.

If USI moves forward, the 2022-23 school year would be when athletics begins participating/competing as a member of the Division I conference. We would leave the Division II conference at the end of this academic year.

Although athletic teams may be eligible for conference champions during the four-year transition, they would not be eligible for NCAA championships. Future NCAA legislation may shorten the time frame for NCAA championship eligibility. 

Q12: Is there a fee to apply for Division I?

A12: Yes, along with the application, a fee would need to be submitted to the NCAA for reclassification. The fee is approximately $1.6 to 1.7 million, based off the existing revenue distribution program that is in place at the Division I level. USI would be vested, that is, eligible for distributions after our fourth year of the Division I reclassification process. If our application is denied, the application fee would be refunded. 

Q13: If the answer is to stay at the DII level, then what?

A13: If we decide to stay at the Division II level, we continue to compete in the GLVC (Great Lakes Valley Conference). This does not mean we can never consider DI again. The information gleaned from the process will be useful in future decision making about the most appropriate level of athletic play for USI.

Survey Summary: Feasibility Study Results

1: No adjustments required 2: Minor adjustments required 3: More than minor adjustments required

(4) Academic standards for University and athletics

(2) Quality and breadth of athletics performance

(2) Recruiting scope

(2) Division I fit

(6) Policy changes

(5) Raise visibility and prominence of program

(4) Additional personnel required

(1) Budgetary increase for department

6 items 10 items 10 items

More than minor changes

Raise visibility and prominence of program

  • Changes required to raise level of talent, funding, and support to achieve regional and national excellence and prominence
  • Plans to heighten visibility of athletics program on campus and in local community
  • Plans for marketing, media coverage, home contest attendance and alumni/booster support
  • Describe marketing plans specific to basketball
  • Describe (planned) actions to enhance schedules in all sports to include mostly DI institutions

Additional personnel required

  • New staff positions planned in transition to DI
  • Describe programs (planned or current) to protect and enhance educational welfare of student athletes
  • Describe (planned or current) policies that protect the wellbeing of student athletes
  • Describe institution’s plans to successfully sponsor DI basketball

Budgetary increase for department

  • Athletics budget during reclassification period


Based on the information provided in the FAQ, in general, are you in favor of USI competing at the Division I level?


slide a


Survey - yes, no, don't know

Summary of Survey Comments

Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(199) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(142) USI is ready to compete at Division I level

(134) Improve enrollment numbers/potential new students 

(572) Additional cost to students/student fee increase

(197) USI is not ready to compete at the Division I level

(49) Questions about additional costs to students

(34) What is expected ROI? 

Survey Comments from Students
Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(113) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(83) Ready to compete DI

(76) Potential to recruit new students/increase enrollment

(403) Additional cost/student fee increase

(100) Students not interested in athletics

(81) USI not ready to compete DI

(80) Concerns academic funding/programs will be cut/need to update other parts of campus

(29) Concerns/questions about cost to students/student fee increase

(12) Concerns academic funding/programs will be cut/need to update other parts of campus

(10) Question fairness to majority of students who are not athletes to pay for move to DI

Survey Comments from Student Athletes
Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(26) Ready to compete DI

(14) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(10) Cool idea/positive move

(48) USI not ready to compete DI

(17) Additional cost to students/student fee increase

(12) Decision seems rushed

(6) Question impact on student-athletes re more practice less time for academics

(4) Question if USI ready to compete DI

Survey Comments from Faculty
Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(28) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(24) Potential for recruiting new students/increase enrollment

(8) Ready to compete DI

(64) Additional cost to students/student fee increase

(41) Cost is too high—general 

(31) Faculty/staff underpaid/USI understaffed

(12) What is expected ROI?

 (7) How will this impact pay of employees/staffing issues?

 (6) Impact on student fees?/Impact on enrollment

Survey Comments from Administrative Staff
Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(30) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(19) Ready to compete DI

(16) Potential for recruiting new students/increase enrollment

(37) Additional cost to students/fee increase

(21) Cost is too high—general

(19) Concerns academic funding/programs will need to be cut/need to update other parts of campus

(12) What is expected ROI?

(11) Concerns about cost to students/fee increase

(10) USI ready to compete?

(10) What if revenue/donations do not meet expectations?

Survey Comments from Support Staff
Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(7) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(6) Ready to compete DI

(5) Potential to recruit new students/increase enrollment

(36) Additional cost to students/fee increase

(16) USI not ready to compete DI

(15) Cost too high—general 

(14) Faculty/staff underpaid/USI understaffed 

(2) Students not interested in athletics

(2) Need more info about impact at other schools

Survey Comments from Retirees
Yes No Don't Know / Need More Information

(5) Enhance USI reputation/exposure

(4) Potential to recruit new students/increase enrollment

(14) Additional cost to students/fee increase

(13) USI not ready to compete DI

(7) Look what happened to UE

(5) Concerns academic funding/programs will need to be cut/need to update other parts of campus

(3) What is expected ROI?

Financial Modeling


Student Fees

2022 – 2023 Academic Year  $60 per semester

2023 – 2024 Academic Year  $120 per semester

2024 – 2025 Academic Year  $180 per semester

2025 – 2026 Academic Year  $238 per semester

Donor Support

2022 – 2023 Academic Year   $709,185

2023 – 2024 Academic Year  $1,282,790

2024 – 2025 Academic Year  $1,856,395

2025 – 2026 Academic Year  $2,430,000



  • Grant in Aid for student athletes will increase to $3.6 million by the 2025-2026 Academic Year


  • Eight full time administrative positions would need to be added in the first two years of transition.  Eight additional positions would need to be added in the in the near future.
  • Current staff members would not receive additional compensation in Year 1 of transition.
  • Up to 12 coaching staff members would be phased in during the transition, but none would be added in Year 1 of the transition.

Overall Athletic Budget

Currently, USI spends $6.6 million on athletics annually and the modeling on the previous two slides would increase this number to $12 million dollars by the end of the 2025-2026 academic year.

Donor Commitments Needed

donor commitments needed