CLAREMORE — A truly historic day in Rogers State University athletics came to fruition at 9:59 a.m. when the Hillcats received acceptance into NCAA Division II. RSU athletic director Ryan Bradley called it a 'milestone moment' and a culmination of blood, sweat and tears over a process that took two years in completion. At Friday's press conference held inside the RSU Centennial Ballroom, Bradley and President Dr. Larry Rice told Hillcat supporters, faculty members and administration that this is a win-win situation for the university and the Claremore community.
"Everyone understands the brand of NAIA, but it just doesn't carry the same significance as the NCAA," Rice said. "It doesn't matter if you're I, II or III, it's the NCAA and brings national recognition to RSU."
Definitely benchmark in RSU history, Rice added.
"College students call it a game-changer," Rice continued on the move from NAIA to NCAA Division II. "Since RSU brought athletics back seven years ago, we have built strong, vibrant, competitive teams on and off the field."
RSU will continue in the Sooner Athletic Conference for the 2012-13 athletic year, and then progress to NCAA Division II in 2013-14 where they will compete in the Heartland Conference.
"The move allows RSU to better serve both our student-athletes and the university, while also increasing the national exposure for both the university and the communities we serve," Rice said.
With its successful application for Division II membership, RSU now enters into a three-year transition period before earning full NCAA membership status.
As a member of the Heartland Conference, RSU joins two other SAC schools — Oklahoma Christian and Lubbock Christian University — as well as schools in Kansas, Arkansas and Texas.
Starting in the fall of 2013, RSU will play a Heartland Conference schedule in all sports as it completes Second Year Candidancy. Upon completion of Year Three of the membership process, which is the provisional year, the Hillcats will gain full NCAA membership and become eligible to compete for NCAA Division II Championships beginning as early as 2015-16.