WAC submits formal letter of support to NCAA regarding reclassification process upon request by Tarleton, Dixie State

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STEPHENVILLE – The Western Athletic Conference formally submitted a letter of support to the NCAA Monday regarding Tarleton’s waiver request for NCAA postseason eligibility during the final two years of its reclassification to Division I.

The WAC’s letter requests that Tarleton be eligible for the conference’s automatic qualification into NCAA championships, beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. In its letter, the WAC supports Tarleton’s assertion that eligibility for NCAA championships is an integral part of the student-athlete experience, and that Tarleton’s student-athletes should not be deprived of that opportunity simply because Tarleton is a reclassifying institution.

Currently, Tarleton is at the end of its second year of a four-year reclassification process to NCAA Division I and will not be eligible to appear in NCAA postseason tournaments until 2024-25.

The full letter submitted to the NCAA by the WAC can be found below:

On behalf of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) this is meant to serve as a formal letter of support for requests from Dixie State University and Tarleton State University to be eligible to earn our Conference’s automatic qualification (AQ) into NCAA championships in all sports, effective with the 2022-23 academic year.

As a Division I member conference, the WAC is committed to providing an exemplary experience – both on and off the courts and fields of play to each and every student-athlete it serves, and the current four-year reclassification process required by the Association does not prioritize that experience. Our membership is fully committed to the well-being of their student-athletes and that includes the ability to compete for NCAA championships which is a primary benefit of membership in Division I.

It should be noted since Dixie State and Tarleton State began their reclassification processes during the 2020-21 academic year, both institutions have taken all the necessary steps to ensure full compliance with the requirements of their transition to Division I, including all financial commitments required by the NCAA, institutional financial support, the furtherance of their academic units and the essential attention to their competitive pedigree. Along with their commitment to financial sustainability, both Dixie State and Tarleton State are fully committed to flourishing as Division I institutions. Dixie State and Tarleton State also are currently in full compliance with all D-I legislation and membership requirements for reclassifying institutions, including D-I scheduling obligations. Although Dixie State and Tarleton State currently are not eligible for NCAA postseason competition, both institutions have committed to meeting the requisite Division I scheduling requirements to be considered D-I opponents during their respective reclassification processes and presently compete in full regular-season Conference competition schedules. Additionally, per Western Athletic Conference rules both institutions currently compete in Conference championships in which the winner does not receive the league’s AQ to NCAA championships (Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Championships, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships, and Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. DSU and TSU also participate in the WAC Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships as unattached entries not eligible for the team or individual AQ to the NCAA Division I Golf Championships). Both institutions also are eligible to win regular-season league championships in all sports sponsored by the WAC. Dixie State and Tarleton State also will be eligible to compete in WAC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments beginning in 2023, as the Conference permits reclassifying institutions to compete in its men’s and women’s basketball championships beginning with the third year of the D-I reclassification process. Overall, the Conference is doing all within its power to ensure its student-athletes receive the full benefit of the championships experience during their respective collegiate matriculation periods and calls upon the NCAA to provide the same advantage.

The WAC also is fully aware and in support of the Atlantic Sun Conference’s legislative proposal that would permit institutions currently reclassifying to Division I and are in year three or later of the reclassification process to be eligible to earn that conference’s AQ into an NCAA Championship. Additionally, our Conference is aware of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s (SAAC) support for the legislative proposal yet is confused and discouraged by the NCAA’s lackluster response and consideration of the request. With the D-I SAAC’s support of the proposal, the WAC implores the NCAA to prioritize this issue as it puts the needs of the student-athlete at the forefront during this transformational time. The collegiate athletics environment is going through a major overhaul, and it is evident that changes need to be made to modernize the policies and procedures that govern the Association. The WAC firmly believes the well-being and overall collegiate experience of student-athletes should remain priorities of paramount importance in this process, and there should never be an instance where the NCAA excludes student-athletes from ever having the opportunity to participate in NCAA championship events due to outdated policies that govern reclassification and postseason access. The NCAA’s D-I reclassification process legislation is completely out of the control of our student-athletes, and they should not be penalized for it. Excluding student-athletes from the opportunity to participate in NCAA championships due to antiquated legislation is unnecessary and unjust.

To summarize, the WAC is steadfast in its support for Dixie State and Tarleton State to be eligible to earn our Conference’s AQ into NCAA championships in all sports effective with the 2022-23 academic year and, based upon the information provided in this letter, respectfully requests the NCAA’s immediate attention to this matter.

The Association’s review and consideration of this request is greatly appreciated. Please consider the WAC at your full service at any time if we can impact the ruling on this issue. Thank you.

Brian Thornton
Commissioner
Western Athletic Conference

Dr. Phil Schubert
President
Abilene Christian University

Dr. Ronald L. Ellis
President
California Baptist University

Dr. Richard B. Williams
President
Dixie State University

Brian Mueller
President
Grand Canyon University
Chair, WAC Board of Directors

Dr. Thomas Evans
President
University of the Incarnate Word
Incoming Institution (2022-23)

Eduardo Peñalver
President
Seattle University

Mindy Benson
Interim President
Southern Utah University
Incoming Institution (2022-23)

Dr. Steven Westbrook
Interim President
Stephen F. Austin State University

Dr. James Hurley
President
Tarleton State University

Dr. Jennifer Evans-Cowley
President
UT Arlington
Incoming Institution (2022-23)

Dr. Guy Bailey
President
UTRGV

Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez
President
Utah Valley University

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