ACU officially joins NCAA Division I

August 23, 2017 - ABILENE – Abilene Christian University has completed its move to full NCAA Division I status and is now eligible for all NCAA and Southland Conference postseason tournaments.

After a vote by the Division I Board of Directors, the NCAA on Wednesday delivered the news to ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert and director of athletics Lee De León, concluding a four-year transition from Division II that pushed the Wildcat athletics program to membership in the top tier of intercollegiate athletics.

“This is an historic day for ACU and its athletics program,” De León said. “Numerous people  and groups across campus have embraced the challenge and worked extremely hard to help us complete the reclassification process. I am proud of what ACU has done to demonstrate we belong at this level, and I’m grateful the NCAA has approved our status as full Division I members.”

Since their first season competing at the D-I level in 2013-14, the Wildcats have won four regular-season Southland titles (women’s cross country in 2015, women’s basketball in 2015-16 and 2016-17, and men’s tennis in 2017) and have earned wins over established Division I programs such as Arizona (baseball), Texas Tech (volleyball, women’s basketball and softball), Texas-El Paso (women’s soccer), Iowa (softball), Texas-Arlington (baseball and softball), New Hampshire (men’s basketball), and Oklahoma State (women’s basketball).

The women’s basketball team has reached the Postseason Women’s NIT each of the last two years and played in the Preseason WNIT in 2016-17, and last season the softball team qualified for the National Invitational Softball Championship. 

Academically, ACU’s student-athletes in 2016-17 had their best cumulative year on record by posting a 3.11 GPA. Among the academic highlights in 2016-17 were the accomplishments of women’s soccer player Kelsie Roberts, who was voted a first team Academic all-America, ACU’s first such honoree since beginning the transition. She was also the Southland Conference Student-Athlete of the Year and a finalist for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

Away from the playing fields, ACU has aligned itself with some of the top companies and brands in the world, including Nike (apparel) and IMG (multimedia rights partner), among others. ACU also re-established the Wildcat Club, the official fundraising organization of ACU Athletics. The Wildcat Club raised more than $6.25 million in its first year, including donations to the Wildcat Annual Fund, capital and endowment gifts, and contributions to sport-specific excellence funds. The first-year membership goal was 500 and it reached more than 700 by the end of the inaugural year.

Since the transition officially began in July 2013, ACU Athletics has undertaken approximately $55 million in facility enhancements, including the two stadiums. Crutcher Scott Field (baseball) and Wells Field (softball) have seen dramatic improvements, while a new tennis facility is being built on the east side of campus. And in Moody Coliseum, two new video boards have been added to enhance volleyball and basketball contests, as well as other university events such as Summit, Sing Song, daily chapel and commencement.

The Teague Special Events Center also is undergoing a facelift that will turn the lobby into a celebration hall recognizing notable alumni and others affiliated with the university. Inside, an academic center will be built to give our 400-plus student-athletes a dedicated space for study halls and tutoring sessions.

In February 2014, the university announced the Vision in Action campaign, a $95 million initiative to build three new science facilities and two on-campus stadiums, transforming the campus in a way not seen in nearly 50 years.

The gifts – including the largest in school history from April and Mark Anthony – helped construct three science buildings and two new on-campus stadiums for its football, track and field, and soccer programs. New Elmer Gray Stadium – serving as the home venue for the track and field and soccer programs – opened in April 2015, and Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium for football opens Sept. 16, 2017.

“Prior to accepting a bid to join the Southland in 2012, we spent three years researching and analyzing the best fit for ACU within the NCAA,” Schubert said. “Moving to Division I brings strategic alignment between athletics and the broader university vision. I’m confident this move will prove to be a significant positive milestone in the life of ACU, and I know Wildcat fans around the world will want to celebrate this important accomplishment with us.”

 The 2017-18 athletics year already has started with the women’s soccer team posting a 1-1 record in its opening weekend of competition, including a 2-1 overtime win last Sunday at Texas-El Paso. The volleyball team opens its season Aug. 25-26 at the Rumble in the Rockies Tournament in Laramie, Wyo., and the football team plays its first two games on the road at New Mexico (Sept. 2) and Colorado State (Sept. 9).

 


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