The University of Southern Indiana says it has accepted an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference as it looks to move to Division I athletics. The university says the partnership will allow it to submit a formal bid for reclassification in the NCAA ahead of a June 1 deadline.
USI says it would begin competing in the conference at the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year.
The transition to Division I takes four years to complete. USI says while it would be eligible to compete for conference championships during that period, it would not be eligible for NCAA championships.
USI President Ronald Rochon calls the announcement an important day for the university and its athletic programs.
“The OVC has an impressive record of stability and success, and they will be a strong partner for us as we make this logical step of growth and expansion and as we work to meet our strategic plan goal of elevating the visibility and reputation of this great institution,” Rochon said in written remarks. “This is not only a great opportunity for USI but also for this community and state.”
USI will become the 23rd full-time member of the conference in its nearly 75-year history.
During a news conference Wednesday morning, OVC Commissioner Beth DeBauche said the decision to bring USI on board was easy for several reasons.
“There’s a competitiveness at USI. Certainly, there’s been a high level of success and we can’t talk about athletics without appreciating the fact that being competitive is important,” said DeBauche. “The location of Evansville as well; we are the Ohio Valley Conference, so what could be more appropriate than a school on the Ohio River. It seems absolutely fitting that you’re a part of the league.”
She adds USI’s location in the center of the conference will also benefit student-athletes at all of its schools.
USI is currently a founding member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The university has won several NCAA Division II National Championships, including men’s basketball in 1995, baseball in 2010 and 2014, and softball in 2018.