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Northern Kentucky University Plans Division 1 Upgrade

Category: Featured News, NCAA Conference Expansion & Realignment, NCAA Division Upgrades, Summit League Expansion & Realignment

With the moratorium on Division 1 upgrades coming to an end soon, NKU is planning to follow in the footsteps of Nebraska-Omaha and rise to Division 1. Always thought to be a strong upgrade candidate, NKU was made strides in recent years with the building of the Bank of Kentucky Center, a 10,000 seat arena.

In order to upgrade to Division 1, a school must have an invitation to join an existing all-sports conference. This eliminates upgrades we’ve seen in the past from Division 2 to Division 1 independence such as NDSU, UND, SDSU, USD, Seattle, CSU Bakersfield, UTPA, Houston Baptist and others. The Atlantic Sun, OVC and Summit League have been the primary homes for recent upgrade invites such as SIUE to the OVC, UNO to Summit League, and Kennessaw St., North Florida, and FGCU to the Atlantic Sun.

Based on their geography, NKU could have multiple options. The Summit League seems like the best fit, as the conference does not sponsor football, a sport NKU does not currently have. If NKU were extended an invitation, it would bring the Summit League membership to 11. With NKU located in the Cincinnati DMA, it would give the Summit League some access to that market. And the school is also nearby two current Summit League members, IUPUI in Indianapolis and IPFW in Fort Wayne.

The Ohio Valley Conference would seem like a stretch for the same reason that NKU does not have football.

The ball is clearly in Tom Douple and the Summit Leagues court now. If they want another member, it would seem they would have one in KNU.

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  • robert444433335

    What is holding Drake and WIU as well

  • robert444433335

    why hasn’t Valpo or Youngstown upgraded to division 1

  • robert444433335

    MAAC why are you supporting Marist football

  • robert444433335

    bIG 12 SORT OUT Iowa St and West Virginia soon

  • robert444433335

    when will MVC ,Horizon ,Summit Mid American Patriot make theres and the CAA.

  • robert444433335

    which conference will make next move America East ,Big South, Big West, WCC ,WAC,Southern Conference or Atlantic Sun.

  • NKU’s best option would obviously be the horizon league. unfortunately for NKU, theyre not the horizons best option. there are other established schools like oakland that would explore the option to go to the horizon but their arena is 3000 capacity short of the horizons minimum. iupui’s gym is the size of a HS gym, so thats totally out of the question. oral roberts is an annual contender in the summit so theyre staying put & not bolting for the southern. north dakota made a big mistake by joining the big sky instead of waiting for the mvfc & joining the summit for all other sports.

    the best fit for NKU would be the summit league. the summit sponsors all the sports at NKU and is non-football. NKU would move the center of the summit a bit more east but with southern utah dropping next year & centenary dropping this year, everyones travel cost is going to plummet. also with the addition of NKU’s new arena, they could put in a bid to host the summit league conference tournament which can definitely provide a nice boost to the economy with 3 schools extremely close for traveling fans.

  • Andy

    Those are good and very valid points you have. I also agree with you 100% that NKU is in a position of having to take whatever invitation they get. The NKU study is very well done and looked in depth at the Horizon, Summit, Ohio Valley and Atlantic Sun. You can check it out if you like at (it’s under “Inside Athletics” down the left hand side).

    The Summit would be an interesting fit since IP-Fort Wayne is a former GLVC rival, while IUPUI and Oakland were teams the Norse played on a regular basis in DII. I think from NKU’s end, travel would be tough in the Summiit and add to costs. The average travel distance for NKU in the Summit would be almost 700 miles, while the Horizon would be under 281 and the OVC would be 286. Again, that may be all moot depending on who would make an offer to NKU. The OVC also doesn’t offer men’s soccer, which is a big sport at NKU.

  • Yes, but that would be like if a D2 program in the northeast did a study…of course the top option would be the A10. But that doesn’t mean the A10 would consider them when there are stronger, established options in the region. I get NKU is aiming high…they should. But there are 3 options and any of them would be a win and none should be undervalued. Remember, NKU needs an invite to upgrade. They cannot upgrade without one so beggars can’t be choosers.

  • Michael in Indy

    *Sorry. I meant North Dakota, not South Dakota. ND football could play in the MVFC, but if that league doesn’t want them, then it could be a football-only member of the Big Sky. I’m sure the Big Sky would be pleased with that move. The Big Sky would still be a somewhat awkward 11-member conference, but it would only be 12 members overall. ND would spare tens of thousands per year on travel for all its other sports by being in the Summit instead of the Big Sky, while the Big Sky members would save some on travel, too.

  • I’m an NKU grad. NKU has it’s sights set on the Horizon League. The school already completed a major study on the move to DI and among many things it looked at, the study recommended the Horizon as the best fit. It also mentioned the Ohio Valley, but thought NKU’s athletic program was better suited for the higher-profile/level Horizon. Travel might also be a bit easier (cost less) than the Summit.

  • Michael in Indy

    *I meant North Dakota.

  • South Dakota has already announced for the SL

  • Michael in Indy

    Butler to MVC (for better RPI so it doesn’t have to sweat it out for at-large NCAA tourney bids, as well as for exposure, improved TV revenue, and better opponents for ticket-selling purposes). IUPUI to Horizon. NKU and/or South Dakota to Summit.

  • Let’s scrap Division I and Division II. The presidents and boards want to throw money down the hole. Why maintain this charade?

  • The OVC only has 10 for football, as Morehead State plays in the Pioneer League-adding UNA gives them 11 for football, adding NKU keeps them at 10 on the gridiron. I don’t think Jacksonville State will be successful in their quest to go FBS, so they’re probably stuck there for the forseeable future.

    I doubt the Horizon League would take two schools directly from Division II, but Bellarmine (Louisville) and Northern Kentucky would be the most sensible combination of upgrades that the Summit, OVC, or Horizon could pick. Bellarmine and NKU are only about 100 miles apart, and both are roughly 2 hours from Indianapolis, so the Summit or Horizon’s ability to target Cincinnati and/or Indianapolis would be greatly improved by adding both of them.

    The OVC would only add both if Jacksonville State left and UNA declined to upgrade, but it would allow the OVC to solidify its presence in the Louisville market (which gives EKU and Morehead a fraction of the attention they get in Lexington). The Kentucky Fair and Expo Center (KFC Yum Center, Freedom Hall, Broadbent Arena) would love to land a conference tournament to backfill all the vacancies created by the Cardinals’ move downtown,

  • Indeed. And NKU fits nicely in the OVC. But they’ve also got the whole North Alabama thing brewing.

  • dafoeberezin3494

    But didn’t the OVC in recent years admit SIU-Edwardsville despite that school not having football? The OVC could conceivably admit NKU to go to 12 overall (even numbers for scheduling purposes), giving them a school closer to Cincy but still within close driving distance of other OVC members Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.

  • Any conference that invites a school will not improve right away. It is a huge adjustment to go to Division I, which is why it takes five years. Would Northern Kentucky be better than those schools? They probably would be. However, it would not be a huge improvement.

  • I hear ya. But Northern Kentucky is already well beyond some of the Great West members. Not to mention the geography of the school is a benefit. I mean, who in the Great West is a better fit than NKU? Chicago St? Been there, done that…Summit wanted them out. NJIT? A bit east don’t you think? HBU or UTPA? Sure, Texas is great, but it’s a bit much travel. UVU? Summit finally got it’s wish with SUU leaving to make travel better. CSUB? Seattle? Same problem as NJIT.

    Summit doesn’t even need schools now. But NKU gives them some security is Oral Roberts were to even leave for the Southland. Regardless, it’s a 10k arena just outside Cincy. It’s nearby IUPUI and IPFW. But Cincy is the key. It would give the conference access to another new market, along with Omaha. Not to mention, Cincy could easily become the home for the conference tournament.

  • The Summit League could have several options, including teams from the Great West. They don’t have to wait for these schools to become eligible. These schools need to become members more than the conferences need it.


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