If all goes according to plan the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) will be a 14-team league as of July 1, 2010, following the official inclusion of new members Lake Erie College (Ohio) and Ohio Dominican.
The GLIAC Presidents Council, made up of the presidents of the league’s 12 current member institutions, voted to officially accept them as provisional members in a meeting on Tuesday held at the University of Findlay.
The vote comes two weeks after the GLIAC Executive Council voted to recommend to the Presidents Council that both institutions be granted membership at its annual spring meeting, after LEC and ODU made formal presentations to the league in Gaylord, Mich. on June 1.
The schools will initially be granted provisional status as both are still in the process of gaining full NCAA Division II status.
LEC first began the transition process during the 2006-07 academic year when it started the two-year exploratory phase, coming from NCAA Division III status, and Ohio Dominican was formerly a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and is currently finishing its first exploratory year in the process of entering Division II.
Hillsdale College athletic director Don Brubacher said full member status within the GLIAC will be granted to each institution when it achieves full Division II membership.
Brubacher said although there are still plenty of hoops for the schools to jump through before they are accredited league members, the Chargers athletic department is delighted with the current progress.
“We’re very pleased with it and are happy that two more private colleges will be potentially joining our league,” he said.
Brubacher said he has not been part of discussions about the possibility of the GLIAC dividing into two divisions based on private or public school status (there are currently seven public and five private members), but he is certain the conference wants to implement “North and South” divisions as soon as possible.
“The league ideally wants to expand to the point of having two clear divisions,” he said. “That way we can try and limit travel expenses and the amount of missed class time for our athletes. And it’s always good to be part of a league that is expanding — because conferences tend to be shifting in recent years and we’re happy to be increasing our membership instead of decreasing.”
According to Jeff Ligney, GLIAC director of media relations, the plan is to eventually expand the conference to 16 full members, which would make scheduling even easier and possibly cut travel costs even further.
Lake Erie College is located in Painesville, Ohio and is an independent, liberal arts institution that currently has over 1,200 students and will offer 20 varsity sports in 2009-10.
“Lake Erie College is delighted to become a member of the premier Division II conference in the nation,” said LEC President Michael T. Victor in a GLIAC press release. “We’ve had many initiatives in recent years, but I truly believe the move to the GLIAC and Division II will be one of our most successful enrollment endeavors and help propel us to the next level.”
Ohio Dominican is located in Columbus, Ohio and is a Catholic liberal arts school that currently offers 14 intercollegiate sports. It was founded in 1911 and current enrollment is over 3,100 students.
“This is a huge accomplishment for Ohio Dominican University and our athletic program as we continue our journey to full membership status within the NCAA,” said Ron Seiffert, ODU Interim President, in the GLIAC press release. “We are honored to join such a competitive and elite conference as the GLIAC and we’re delighted that Lake Erie College will be joining us. I am particularly grateful for all of the hard work undertaken by our students, coaches, faculty and staff that helped achieve this milestone.”
Brubacher said the GLIAC has been in ongoing discussions for years about how to have a stronger presence in larger media markets and the inclusion of these schools would certainly help.
“Ohio Dominican is covered pretty well by the Columbus Dispatch and Lake Erie College certainly has a presence in the Cleveland Plain Dealer,” Brubacher said. “We are always looking for more ways to market our league and I think these schools would help our cause immediately.”
One concern some GLIAC fans have raised is the idea that the inclusion of these schools could mean some weaker competition for at least several years.
Brubacher said the concerns are valid, but something the GLIAC has discussed at length. He said the conference is confident LEC and ODU are on a similar track to schools who have been added in the past.
“We expect both of these schools to compete well, right now in our conference. Sure they won’t be at the same level as the top programs in some sports, but we feel that they can rise to that level,” he said. “And every school has its particular strengths anyways. For example, Findlay is the powerhouse of men’s basketball in our league, but hasn’t fared as well in some other sports, and Tiffin won the (GLIAC) men’s soccer championship (in 2008), but isn’t as strong other places.”