The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 11, 2013

College sports: Penn College explores competing at Division III level

For The Daily Item

WILLIAMSPORT — The Pennsylvania College of Technology wants to take its intercollegiate athletic program to the next level.

Athletic Director Scott Kennell announced Friday the special mission affiliate of Penn State has applied to the NCAA for exploratory status in Division III. That is the same classification as schools like Susquehanna and Lycoming.

The NCAA annually accepts a maximum of four schools as provisional members, after which there is a four-year process to become full members. The exploratory classification provides institutions with an opportunity to learn more about the NCAA.

Penn College would like to compete at the Division III level in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, tennis, women’s volleyball and wrestling. Kennell noted this past fall, Wildcat teams had an 11-8-2 record against NCAA opponents.

The college is making overtures to several undisclosed conferences for membership. The Middle Atlantic Conference, of which Lycoming is a member, is not one of them, Kennell said.

After the school is accepted into a conference, it will leave the Penn State University Athletic Conference but will remain a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association until a full NCAA member, he said.

A provisional member of the NCAA may not compete for national titles so remaining a USCAA member will enable Penn College teams to do so, he explained. Since 2008, Wildcat teams have appeared in 23 national tournaments.

Moving to the NCAA would require hiring full-time coaches because recruiting student-athletes will be part of their job, said Elliott Strickland, chief student affairs officer. He estimates approximately 225 students will be recruited for the various sports. There are no athletic scholarships in Division III.

The current athletic budget of $500,000 will increase by $150,000 next year, he said. The additional students recruited for sports will more than cover the added cost, he said. Improvements to athletic facilities including the possibility of a turf field are planned, he said. There are no plans to add football, he said.

“Making the transition to the NCAA will align us with a stronger and more widely recognized athletic brand,” Kennell said. Despite the athletic upgrade, academics remain the priority for the college, Strickland said.

There is no guarantee the NCAA will accept Penn College’s application but, Strickland believes the college with its 5,671 students is in a good position.