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Chowan officially D-II

MURFREESBORO – Three years worth of hard work will come to fruition September 1.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) officially announced the acceptance of Chowan University into the Division II ranks effective on that date.

“When I arrived, part of my strategic plan in growing the university was becoming a Division II school,” Chowan University President Dr. Chris White said. “This designation from the NCAA will allow me to concentrate on other components of that strategy.”

Since becoming the school’s president, Dr. White has led the charge in transitioning from a member of Division III to the D-II designation. He hired Athletic Director Dennis Helsel to complete the work of getting Chowan accepted.

“This is what I was hired to do,” Helsel said Monday. “One of the major responsibilities laid on me was to make this transition happen. None of the other responsibilities could take place without doing this.”

Helsel said those other responsibilities include conference membership and facility upgrades.

“For me, this is not the end,” he said. “This is the beginning of all the responsibilities the president wants me to fulfill.”

As he looks to the future, Helsel admitted getting Chowan into a conference would be a priority, but cautioned it could take time.

“Getting affiliation with a conference is a major opportunity for the university,” he said, “but one that we don’t control. We don’t invite ourselves to be part of a conference.”

Helsel said what the university could do is prepare itself to be ready for conference membership when those leagues in the area consider expansion.

“We have to make sure that whatever conference may invite us in the future that we be seen as a viable member should that opportunity arise,” he said.

Helsel said the way to accomplish that was to follow NCAA rules, show that scholarship levels are worthy of the conference, protect academic standards and make sure facilities were comparable with prospective conferences.

“The thing we have no control over is where we are located,” Helsel added. “We’re not going to pick up Chowan University and move it to a conference.”

Helsel said the affiliation with Division II would also help with scheduling because current D-II members would be more willing to schedule the Hawks.

Besides future conference affiliation, Chowan will reap other benefits from the change, according to Dr. White.

“This gives us the opportunity to compete against like-quality and like-purpose schools,” Dr. White said. “It will give us a recruiting edge in our general student body.”

The president also said it would give the Hawks an opportunity to compete against Division I schools and thereby would get the notoriety of ESPN’s “Bottom Line”.

While there will be a variety of benefits, the university will also face challenges because of the new affiliation.

“There are certain areas where we will have more work,” Helsel admitted. “We have to make sure the coaches and student-athletes know what Division II is.”

He said there are more rules the institution will have to follow and more compliance issues to deal with as well as a new Academic Progress Rate which will be monitored by the NCAA.

Helsel said it will be important for the university’s teams to improve retention to meet the requirements of academic progress.

“Since student-athletes make up one-third of our student body, if we do a better job of retaining them, it will improve our overall student retention rate,” Helsel said. “Overall student retention is another key component of Dr. White’s strategic plan for the university.”