By David Parker
When Olivet’s men’s and women’s basketball teams begin their seasons next fall, they will be doing so in a new environment. Starting with the 2012-2013 season, both teams will switch from NAIA Division I to Division II.
According to women’s basketball coach Doug Porter, this started when Indiana University, a team in the Chicago Collegiate Athletic Conference along with Olivet, made the decision last fall to drop to Division II. This left the conference with five teams for the 2012-2013 season, which is below the six-team minimum that is necessary for a team to receive an automatic conference bid to the national tournament.
According to ONU Athletic Director Gary Newsome, Roosevelt University followed suit, leaving four teams. An attempt to rescue the conference failed.
“The league commissioner asked all of the Division II teams if they were [willing to play] in Division I so we could maintain an automatic bid, and the answer was ‘no’ by all,” Newsome said.
After St. Francis and St. Xavier also made the decision to move to Division II, Olivet was left with two choices: stay in Division I as an independent team, or move to Division II.
“Getting games as an independent is more difficult, so we felt that dropping to Division II was our only realistic alternative,” Porter said.
According to men’s head basketball coach Ralph Hodge, the biggest problem is there are not many available teams during January and February.
“We’d have to travel many states in order to fill a schedule,” Newsome said.
The athletic department is disappointed with the result.
“I was opposed to the league [forcing us] to go to NAIA Division II.” Newsome said. “We’d still like to stay in Division I, but it’s not possible.
“If we could get six teams to [play in a conference], Olivet would lead the way. We’d be the first to sign up because that’s the division we’d like to be in.”