D-I conference destination still mystery for UNA

With talks raging on between UNA and Division I conference commissioners, there is still no invite in place at this time, UNA officials said.

UNA officials are still waiting on a conference invite from the top three conferences mentioned earlier this year by Athletic Director Mark Linder. Those conferences include the Ohio Valley, Southland and Southern conferences.

“We have been in contact with the OVC, Southland, and the SoCon periodically, and we give them updates with how all our benchmarks have been going and our expansion,” Linder said. “We basically do this to stay on their radar.”

Linder said he tries not to stay in contact with the leagues every week in fear of being in too much contact and that it could get distracting.

“We don’t want to be a burden on them, so if something important comes up we will shoot those conferences an email or a phone call showing interest,” Linder said. “It’s probably a four-to-five-week basis on when we contact them.”

One of the other key benchmarks for making the transition into D-I was raising money for the application fee, which is at $3 million, and it seems as though UNA is close to achieving that goal.

“We have raised around $2.4 and $2.5 million so far, and we look to wrap up that benchmark in the next five months,” Linder said.

Linder said it isn’t up to UNA to get a conference invite, but he wants to be ready when the day comes with all the other benchmarks intact.

“Getting an invite is not in our hands, but what is in our hands is us being educated with the (D-I) level and do everything we need to do to be D-I ready and leave the rest to them,” Linder said. “It’s not about if the invite comes, but when—and we want to be ready. Every conference commissioner that I have talked to has been very encouraging in keeping us updated.”

In the meantime, UNA remains a member of the Gulf South Conference in all athletic teams and will continue to be a member until it receives a conference offer.

“We are still a very active member of the Gulf South Conference,” Linder said. “We remained engaged and continue to be engaged until we get an invitation.”

With the OVC turning down UNA this past November, many people began to believe that the timeline for the move to D-I would be moved back, but Linder said the university is right on schedule.

“In the original plan, the first year to go (D-I) was fall 2013—not the fall of 2012—so, as far as the timeline goes, we are in pretty good shape,” Linder said. “As for hitting the panic button on this, I don’t think we need to do that.”