Cumberland tests NCAA waters
Move from NAIA is being studied
Cumberland University officials are looking into moving the school's athletic programs from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level to NCAA Division II.
Cumberland President Harvill Eaton said he and other representatives from the school met last month with the NCAA Membership Committee and that the school's athletics director, Ron Pavan, is continuing to explore the implications of the move.
"We weren't discouraged by that meeting,'' Eaton said. "As the president of this university … you have to consider strategic moves. That means asking not only what it could do for you, but what does it take to do it?"
Eaton said his aim has been to move the school to a higher level academically and athletically since he became president in 2004.
"When I came, my goal was — and remains — to move this school upwards,'' Eaton said. "When I say move it up, that means on all fronts: athletics, academics and the physical plan. We've made great strides over the last five years and now we're taking a peek at what we can do to beef up athletics. A logical question is, 'What about moving to the NCAA?'''
Cumberland has a football team, along with men's and women's basketball, soccer, cycling, tennis and golf. It also has men's wrestling and baseball teams and women's volleyball and softball teams.
As an NAIA member, Cumberland competes primarily against other small private institutions.
Over the past two seasons, the football team has played against NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams Tennessee Tech and Chattanooga. The men's and women's basketball teams played exhibition games this season against Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee State, and the perennial powerhouse baseball team won the 2004 NAIA championship.
Eaton informed coaches about two months ago that school officials would look at a possible NCAA move.
"The coaches are aware of it, but they're not aware what we have learned because we're still looking and learning,'' Eaton said.
Coaches were instructed to not comment on the possibility of the move.
Pavan, who became the school's AD in August, has an NCAA background. As athletics director at Ohio Valley University, he served on the NCAA Division II Membership Committee.
Ohio Valley moved from NAIA to NCAA Division II during Pavan's tenure.
"We're just taking a hard look at where we're at,'' Pavan said. "All of our sports programs have been very successful, and this is something I want to take a look at."