Oklahoma City University’s top athletic official says it’s not likely the school will return to NCAA Division I status.


Oklahoma City University’s top athletic official says it’s not likely the school will return to NCAA Division I status.
Athletic director Jim Abbott cited financial concerns as the primary reason the university of about 3,700 students likely will remain in the NAIA, an organization consisting primarily of smaller colleges.
“Division I is not just a basketball thing. It’s everything,” Abbott said. “If we would go Division I, the minimum is 14 varsity sports at that level.
“So really, for us, the whole issue has been that it would be very costly to fund 14 sports at that level and, until we have the resources and facilities to do it, NAIA is the place for us.”
Oklahoma City University competed in NCAA Division I through the 1984-85 school year and has a rich athletic history that includes legendary basketball coach Abe Lemons, who served two stints at the school. OCU has appeared in 11 NCAA basketball tournaments, most recently in 1973, and reached regional finals in 1956 and 1957 under Lemons.
For financial reasons, OCU left the NCAA in 1985 and joined the Kansas City, Mo.-based NAIA. Since then, OCU has enjoyed great success, winning 33 NAIA team championships in seven sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, softball, baseball, men’s and women’s golf and men’s tennis. The Stars have won the last two NAIA men’s basketball titles.
The university now has 13 varsity sports. OCU began studying a potential move back to Division I in 2006.
Abbott noted OCU’s athletic teams now can drive to play Sooner Athletic Conference rival Southern Nazarene in Bethany and “the whole trip might cost $200, including a stop at a restaurant on the way back.
But at the Division I level, that trip would be incrementally more expensive. It might be flying to Omaha to play Creighton and flying back.”
Abbott said a required 7-year transition period to enter Division I — during which the school could not compete for national championships — is a factor in the decision to not pursue such a move.