top of page

Candidates to transition athletics to Division I

Which four programs could look to make the switch to the highest level the NCAA has to offer? I examine the likelihood of four schools to make the jump.

New Haven

Location: New Haven, CT

Undergraudate Enrollment: 5,200

Potential Conferences: NEC, MAAC

New Haven has always expressed some interest in moving to Division I, and even ran a piece in The Charger Bulletin about their desire to make the jump. They seemingly doubled-down on their commitment to athletics when they hired longtime D1 athletics administrator Sheahon Zenger to be their Athletic Director in 2019. Zenger replaced former NFL head coach Chris Palmer, who retired from his AD post. Now, Zenger was tabbed as the President of the university, and you can bet the thought of advancing the school in any way possible has crossed his mind. The NEC is one team short of their desired 10 after St. Francis (NY) shuttered its basketball program this offseason. Could this be a perfect marriage for a conference that has taken in three other D2 programs in the past 15 years?


Location: DeWitt, NY

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,800

Potential Conferences: NEC, Horizon, Patriot, MAAC

Never forget that LeMoyne has accomplished a rare feat in beating a D1 hoops team in an exhibition; the Dolphins beat Syracuse in what was supposed to be an Orange "tune-up" back in November 2009, but ended up with more harm for 'Cuse than they could have ever imagined. Oddly enough, the women's team almost did the same thing to Syracuse this past November, losing 73-70 to the Orange. What a world! LeMoyne has a rich culture of athletics, having been a nationally-recognized name in most of their active programs at different times throughout history. Over 75% of students are involved in some sort of athletics at LeMoyne, and despite being small, their love for sport is mighty. The Dolphins' men's lacrosse team won the D2 National Championship six times, having won as recently as 2021. The women's lax program took home the same honor, racking up their first title in 2018. LeMoyne would more than likely need to consider adding another major sport - likely to the tune of football or hockey - but it's clear they'd immediately compete for championships at the conference and national level if they made the switch. I again think the NEC could be a good fit here.


Location: Sioux Falls, SD

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,600

Potential Conferences: Summit, Big Sky, Missouri Valley

Augustana, or "Augie" as their website ( self-identifies, has very specific intentions. Let's go straight the source on this one; here's a screenshot from their "Viking Bold" strategic plan they've recently laid out.

So, a transition to D1 is in the cards - and in the fundraising plan - for Augustana. The question now turns to when, where, and how they will do it. Augustana added D1 men's hockey in the summer of 2021, becoming the first D1 men's hockey program in South Dakota. Some online forums claim that Augustana's eyes are bigger than the checkbook in Sioux Falls, as they allegedly made some cuts to the track facility they were completing due to financial constraints. With less than 2,000 students, it's fair to have skepticism of how Augustana will compete financially in a growing market. But of equal importance, it's also never been easier to raise money for athletic-based moves, especially in the NIL era. The Summit League would be in play.

Minnesota State-Mankato

Location: Mankato, MN

Undergraduate Enrollment: 15,500

Potential Conferences: Big 12, Summit, Missouri Valley, Big Sky

Mankato is home to one of the nation's most trending D1 hockey programs, having been to the Frozen Four in both 2021 and 2022. It's fair to wonder why Mankato hasn't made the switch to D1 already given their rich history of athletics, especially when similar moves seem to be abundant in the Northern States. The Dakotas saw their four largest state schools make the move up to D1, and fellow Minnesota institution St. Thomas - with just over half the students that Mankato has - made the jump directly from D3 to D1, skipping D2 altogether. There's also evidence that Minnesota State at the very least had exploratory meetings with the Ohio Valley Conference, but talks never progressed. In a recent interview in the Mankato Free Press, Athletic Director Kevin Buisman mentioned a few different reasons why their comfort in keeping athletics at the D2 level might benefit the university, noting that "the only reason hockey is able to play in Division I is because there is no longer a championship for hockey offered at the Division II level." It sounds like Minnesota State brass would have to invest some significant money in revamping facilities if they were to make this move, but this is the least likely of the bunch in 2023.

PIC: Minnesota State University, Mankato


bottom of page