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Board members to vote on potential move to NCAA Division I

On Monday, Trustees heard arguments for remaining in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference or transitioning to Western Athletic Conference.

By Rob White

March 14, 2019

Board of Trustees meeting in progress with members around the table

The Metropolitan State University of Denver Board of Trustees will soon decide whether the University will pursue a potential move to NCAA Division I’s Western Athletic Conference for athletics, or if it will remain in Division II’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Board members met Monday in a special work session to hear presentations and ask questions about the pros and cons of a potential move. To provide a timely decision, members will participate in an email meeting (pursuant to the Open Meeting Law) to vote on the question of whether to join the WAC. Please check the Board of Trustees website soon for more information.

The WAC first asked MSU Denver Athletics to consider potential Division I membership last fall. The inquiry prompted the University Athletics Department to conduct a feasibility study to examine a potential move to Division I and to evaluate its current status in Division II.

Presenting to the Board on Monday were Jeff Hurd, commissioner of the WAC; Brian Mueller, CEO of Grand Canyon University and the chairman of the WAC Board of Directors; Chris Graham, commissioner of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference; Tim Selgo, Division II consultant and former athletic director of Grand Valley State; Russell Wright of Collegiate Consultants; and George Middlemist, MSU Denver’s interim vice president of Finance and Administration.

Hurd and Mueller discussed the benefits of transitioning to Division I, while Graham and Selgo discussed the benefits of remaining in the RMAC and Division II. Wright presented his feasibility study, which included an analysis of MSU Denver athletics compared with other RMAC and Division II athletics programs as well as revenue and expense projections for each. Middlemist presented on the financial impacts of a possible transition.

Wright projected that an increase of $4.5 million to the Athletics Department budget by 2024-25 would be needed to fund programs similar to the midpoint of other WAC schools. He said MSU Denver ranks seventh among RMAC schools in operating budgets (fourth when institutional-support dollars are included). He reported that increasing the athletics budget by about $1.5 million would put the program in alignment with the Director’s Cup Top 25, a measure of the overall strength of Division II programs.

The NCAA requires a one-time $1.7 million fee to make the transition to Division I.

Topics: Athletics, Board of Trustees

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