Students express concerns about D-I transition

Students protest Division I in March before the trustees voted in favor of the transition.

After UNA’s recent rejection from the Ohio Valley Conference in its quest to transition to Division I, many students have voiced their opinions about the rejection and the transition in general. Since this past summer, the UNA board of trustees has been heavily focused on entering the OVC, so the rejection came suddenly for many students.

“The rejection was a huge surprise to me, as well as a lot of students,” said SGA President Ralph Akalonu.

Most students expressed surprise in regards to UNA’s rejection, but their opinions on whether or not UNA should continue searching for available conferences vary.

“I was a little disappointed (about UNA being rejected),” said UNA senior Ethan Cagle. “But it will probably work out for the best.”

UNA junior Jesse Faulk was disappointed by the rejection.

“I hate we’re not going into that conference,” he said. “I hope it works out the way it needs to -Division I or Division II.”

Akalonu said he hopes UNA will continue to seek out other conferences because of the moves they have already made to raise money.

“I can’t really say why the OVC rejected UNA, but, whatever their reason, it very well may be a reflection of their view of our university,” he said.

According to Akalonu, many students are unsure of the future of the Division I move.

“There has been a lot of mixed feelings from students, especially since both the university and SGA began educating the student body on the move,” he said. “I have heard students ask the question ‘What’s next?’ and also other students express positive feelings about the rejection.

“I think students are waiting to see what the university’s next step will be.”

Some students think the rejection is a signal to UNA.

“I think this is a sign we should stay Division II,” said UNA senior Taylor Pickens.

Other students believe UNA planned poorly before initiating the application process to the OVC.

“We shouldn’t have gone into Division I without knowing what we’d be doing,” said UNA sophomore Michael Thaxton. “It’s kind of dumb to leap into something without knowing where our place will be.”

Akalonu said he will support the students.

“Based on my position as president of SGA, I will stand with the majority of students, who voted in opposition to the move,” he said. “The university needs to continue to engage UNA and the Florence community in the process, which they are doing.”

Some students have other concerns regarding the transition.

“I also think another aspect with respect to being competitive in a Division I conference, especially in the sport of football, is the fact that we have not won a Division II championship in 15 years,” Akalonu said. “The recent GSC titles this year show our competitiveness in other sports, but (football) is still not showing that level of competitiveness.

“So, in all, the rejection hasn’t altered my opinion, but I think it could serve as an indication of how we are viewed.”

Other students have concerns that do not involve athletics.

“I haven’t heard anything that’s going to benefit students, and I think we should focus on academics,” said UNA senior Deb Bailey. “Why would we raise money for Division I but not academics? I’m glad they got rejected.”