For the first time since the early 1980s, Husson College has dual membership in NCAA Division III and NAIA Division II.
Husson has been a longstanding NAIA member and was voted into NCAA Division III last month at the NCAA Management Council meeting. The Bangor-based school will be a provisional member of NCAA Division III for four years.
The Maine Athletic Conference, Husson’s NAIA league, eliminated athletic scholarships two years ago and NCAA Division III schools are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships, either.
“This is a logical step if we aren’t going to offer scholarships,” said Husson men’s soccer coach Mitch Ellisen. “It creates a level playing field with the other teams.”
Husson baseball coach John Kolasinski said it will be a “big advantage recruiting-wise” because of the additional exposure afforded NCAA institutions.
“You see the NCAA mentioned on television a lot more than the NAIA,” added Kolasinski. “This is a positive move for us. It’s a great step forward. I’m excited about it.”
“Our kids will get more recognition now. [Former Husson All-American] Sandy McCuaig played two summers in the Cape Cod League and never received the opportunity to play in the New England college baseball all-star game. There’s no question he should have been invited to play in it,” said Kolasinski, who added that he couldn’t recall an NAIA player being invited to the event.
Men’s basketball coach Warren Caruso said, “The biggest advantage is the NCAA has catastrophic injury coverage for all of its participants.” He also said it could open up some “scheduling windows.”
That’s not to say there won’t be disadvantages, also.
“You’re only allowed to play 36 baseball games in NCAA Division III compared to 65 in the NAIA,” pointed out Kolasinski. “But there are a couple of scheduling provisions in the NCAA. You’re allowed to play in two tournaments in which doubleheaders are counted as one game instead of two.”
The Braves played 43 games last spring.
Ellisen and Caruso pointed out that in cases where there is a discrepancy in standards between the NCAA and NAIA, the school will have to adhere to the stricter set of rules.
“There are NAIA schools [outside the MAC] that do give out scholarships,” said Ellisen. “The NAIA has academic requirements for freshmen while NCAA Division III schools don’t. They adhere to the academic requirements established by the school.”
Husson Athletic Director Pam Hennessey said it is exciting to have another avenue for student-athletes.
“I see it as an opportunity to broaden our horizons,” said Hennessey. “There will be opportunities for student-athletes that didn’t previously exist, educationally and athletically. We didn’t want to get caught standing still. We want to have some goals, especially if we’re going to add sports.”
Two sports Husson has added in recent years have been field hockey and men’s lacrosse and Hennessey said the NAIA doesn’t offer championships in those two sports while NCAA Division III does.
“The NCAA is a big organization. It has a big support staff, a big national office, and a lot of people working for them. It will help us with our scheduling,” said Hennessey.
She explained that she will have to provide the NCAA with in-depth self-evaluations of the athletic department after each school year.
“That will help us grow and develop,” said Hennessey. “After the fourth year, they will either accept you or recommend that you do something else.”
If Husson is accepted, the institution can elect to leave the NAIA and become a full-fledged NCAA Division III member or can continue with its dual membership.
Under the dual membership umbrella, the school will have to declare its intentions – NCAA Division III or NAIA Division II – in each sport on May 1 prior to the next school year.