The Health Pavilion, Greyhound Villages and the new engineering program are signs of the University of Indianapolis campus’s growth. This is particularly true in the athletic department. Within the last 10 years, there have been the additions of the Athletic Recreation Center, a new floor in Nicoson, new turf and lockers for Key Stadium and of men’s and women’s lacrosse programs.
All this growth, may raise the question of whether UIndy is aiming to participate in Division I NCAA athletics. According to Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sue Willey, the answer, at least for her, is an unequivocal no.
“I would say, no, no, no—adamantly, no,” Willey said. “I just feel like Division II is the best niche. Most of our coaches are recruiting Division I student athletes and selling them on a Division II experience. If you think about it, 17 of our teams last year went to post-season play. You go to Division I, and you’d be lucky to win a conference championship and get an at-large [playoff birth].”
Willey gave the examples of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, which both made a leap from Division II to Division I athletics. The two schools have not seen the success that they may have had in Division II.
“They made that leap when it was easy to go to Division I,” Willey said. “But unless you have the money, you are just another wannabe. I don’t think that’s the experience we want to give to our student athletes.”
However, she did add one qualifier to her original statement. Money is the main issue, Willey said, and if the university could get a significant enough donation, she would support a move to Division I.
“If somebody would commit $60 million a year to the University of Indianapolis for its athletics program, not one time but every year, we could probably be a mediocre [Division I athletic] program,” Willey said. “You just have to find your best niche. It comes down to money. If you want your school to be an everyday Joe with your score on the tickertape, but it’s a losing score, we could do it. I don’t want that for our student athletes.”
Willey said, however, that with just a few administrative changes, the university might one day attempt a shift to Division I.
“There hasn’t been that uproar, but with different leadership, I’ve seen it happen at other schools,” Willey said. “If a president and AD [athletic director] want it to happen, and they have the support of the board, it can happen. Then [if] the president and AD move on to somewhere else, the school is left in narrow straits because they don’t have the money to be a DI [contender].”
While Willey doubts the possible success of Greyhound athletics in Division I play, Associate Baseball Head Coach Al Ready said that he thinks baseball could thrive in a Division I conference.
“There are a lot of conferences that would probably love to have us. One that comes to mind would be the Horizon [League],” Ready said. “I think that would be a great fit for us. I think you could set your program up for a transition like that very easily.”
Ready said that he believes that the university’s location in a major metropolitan city would be a great help to a transition from Division II to Division I.
“Our location is huge,” Ready said. “Being right in the city of Indianapolis, one of the largest cities in the country, it’s an excellent location for a school like UIndy to make that transition to Division I, no question.”
The Greyhounds are currently members of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, except the men’s and women’s lacrosse, which are members of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, respectively. Willey said, the GLVC requires that schools participate in all sports that the conference offers, so it would not be possible for one sport to move to Division I without all athletic teams switching out of the GLVC. However, Ready said that if the Greyhounds ever did make the transition to Division I, the baseball program’s largest obstacle would be depth in the bull pin.
“It would start with recruiting,” Ready said. “You are going to go out, and you are going to go after some more volume in terms of arms. With a Division I tag, you’re going to be able to get a few better arms as well.”
While the university has no plans to move to Division I at this moment, Willey said things can change. Both Willey and Ready agree that athletics has grown and will continue to do so, but Ready wants to keep the same environment for his players no matter what conference.
“I think baseball is going to thrive here at UIndy,” Ready said. “Our program is a haven for these kids, they just love being around and showing up to practice every day. I don’t see that changing.”