CLEVELAND, TN (goleeflames.com) --- Lee University athletics crossed a final hurdle toward gaining active membership in NCAA Division II and the Gulf South Conference (GSC) on Thursday afternoon when the Division II Membership Committee voted to recommend Lee for full membership.
"What wonderful news, and what a terrific affirmation of our athletic program!" said Lee president Dr. Paul Conn after receiving the phone call from the NCAA staff informing him of the decision. "We are eager to begin this new challenge, and our goal is to earn everyone's respect as leaders in NCAA DII." Formal ratification of the Membership Committee's recommendation is expected to be made by the Division II Management Council on July 27-28.
The NCAA decision marks the completion of a successful Provisional Year, following a pair of Candidacy Years beginning the 2012-2013 school year. When the Management Council gives its approval, the Flames and Lady Flames will enter full NCAA DII membership effective Sept. 1 and all varsity programs will be eligible for GSC and NCAA postseason play.
Lee athletics has spent the past two seasons competing as transitional members in the Gulf South, but was not eligible for conference or NCAA DII post season play.
The release received from the NCAA on Friday afternoon, noted that Division II will grow to 307 members this fall when it welcomes seven new schools to its membership.
The following schools joined Lee in being approved to become active Division II members in September: Daemen College, Fresno Pacific University, Lubbock Christian University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Christian University and The University of Virginia's College at Wise.
"This is a historic event for Lee athletics, said Lee Athletic Director Larry Carpenter. "Going from one to 17 sports and transitioning from the NCCAA to NAIA to NCAA DII shows the vision and commitment of our administration.
"I would like to thank Dr. Conn for making the decision to apply for NCAA Division II membership and leading us through this process.
"I want to recognize Cole Strong for his tireless work in organizing and submitting all the required materials for the NCAA, including a stellar year three report.
"Paul Cretton and Jessica McIntyre have established a model Division II Compliance Office, one that is not only effective but exudes a friendly open door atmosphere for all our coaches.
"The Compliance Committee, made up of individuals throughout the campus, has been an integral part in helping to create one of the best compliance departments in the country.
"I am excited about the upcoming year and the opportunity to compete for GSC and NCAA championships."
Strong, Lee's Assistant Vice-President for Operations, said: "We are thrilled with this news from the NCAA Membership Committee. This is the culmination of three years' worth of hard work from our NCAA transition team.
"It's also a huge milestone in the history of Lee University," he added. "We would not be here today without the support of Dr. Conn, the hard work of our Athletic Department and many other individuals across the Lee University campus. I'm grateful to have been part of this process.
"Most of all, I'm excited for our student-athletes. They have trusted us throughout this transition and now they have the opportunity to compete for GSC and NCAA Division II championships. I know they are looking forward to that challenge. I can't wait to watch them compete this coming year."