FGCU Terminates Membership in NAIA
FORT MYERS, FL - Florida Gulf Coast University President William C. Merwin today terminated the University’s membership immediately with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The University’s action was taken as a result of the NAIA Council of Presidents’ decision to deny FGCU’s request for a bylaw waiver to allow FGCU student-athletes the opportunity to compete in post-season play while the University is a provisional member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“I appealed to the NAIA Council of Presidents this past weekend in Kansas City on behalf of FGCU’s 180 student-athletes,” Merwin said. “I find it difficult to reconcile to our student-athletes and coaches the incongruity in the NAIA’s decision - and the tenets of equal opportunity and sportsmanship the NAIA claims as guiding principles. I am very disappointed that an arbitrary application of a rule that was clearly not designed for a new athletics program like FGCU’s will deny our student-athletes the opportunity for post-season competition.”
The Council adopted a new bylaw earlier this year that deterred NAIA members from leaving the NAIA to seek NCAA membership. The bylaw, known as Article I, Section G, states: “NAIA institutions that hold dual affiliation in other athletics associations shall not be allowed to participate in NAIA post season contests while holding provisional membership (i.e. membership which does not permit post season competition). Once full membership is achieved in the other association, the dual member institution’s individual sports program(s) will be allowed to participate in NAIA sponsored championships.”
FGCU planned to apply for NCAA II status in spring 2000 but the NCAA placed a two-year moratorium on all new memberships.
The next academic year, 2000-01, FGCU played its first year of intercollegiate competition in men’s and women’s golf and tennis without the opportunity for post-season play. Searching for championship opportunities, FGCU joined the NAIA that spring and competed for NAIA championships during 2001-02.
In June 2002, the NCAA lifted its membership moratorium but put into place a one-year exploratory phase and four-year provisional period where members would not be eligible for championships.
Because of its uniqueness as a new athletics program, FGCU appealed for and received an NCAA waiver of the exploratory year requirement, thus making FGCU a provisional member of the NCAA. This NCAA provisional membership is what the NAIA objected to through its new bylaw. Currently FGCU is the only school in the country affected by the NAIA bylaw.
Before the NAIA adopted its new rule, FGCU was very successful in its first year of NAIA competition. Men’s golf was ranked first in the country for most of the season before finishing fourth in the NAIA national championship. Women’s golf was ranked second for most of the year and finished fifth in the national championship. FGCU’s women’s tennis finished the season ranked fifth, and men’s tennis ranked ninth.
“We felt based on our geographical location and public university status, a dual affiliation with the NCAA and NAIA was necessary for scheduling,” director of Athletics Carl McAloose said. “We were committed to a long-term relationship with the NAIA but Saturday’s decision by the Council of Presidents seriously questions the NAIA’s commitment to this relationship. It is unfortunate that our student-athletes, coaches and the Southwest Florida community have been adversely affected by this decision, but we will move forward toward our goal of being one of the top NCAA II programs in the country.”
“We will move ahead with building a quality intercollegiate athletics program that focuses on students and will seek every possible opportunity for those student-athletes with whom we have been entrusted for their college years,” Merwin said.
FGCU will compete in 10 intercollegiate sports this year: men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, softball and baseball.
For more information, contact McAloose at (941) 590-7007.