Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles to apply to NCAA for move to Division I

The University of Southern Indiana voted unanimously on Monday to formally apply to the NCAA for a move to Division I for the Screaming Eagles, the school announced.

Last fall, the school said it was beginning the exploratory process of a possible reclassification. The school surveyed more than 2,200 people from the campus community, while also putting together a 25-person D1 Exploratory Committee. The committee's internal report, released last month, said the school could make the jump but needed to make significant adjustments in its athletic budget.

On Monday, the USI board of trustees voted 9-0 to make the formal application to the NCAA.

"Indiana is my home state. Evansville is my hometown. The University of Southern Indiana is my alma mater. I can't imagine my life without their influence," board of trustees chair Ron Romain said in a news release. "I believe we have a duty to be forward thinking, to embrace change and to make our community and the state better. The unanimous vote of this Board indicates how strong support is for this move."

University president Ronald S. Rochon said officials from Division I conferences had reached out to the school in the past, which spurred the discussion that began in the fall. The internal report last month revealed that three Division I conferences were under consideration; they are believed to be the Ohio Valley Conference, Horizon League and Atlantic Sun Conference.

An announcement regarding conference membership is expected in the coming days, according to the school.

"In our 56 plus year history, there have been many firsts. Our founders envisioned public higher education for our area and brought it to life in 1965," Rochon said in the release. "Today, in 2022, USI envisions a future that includes competing at the highest level of athletic play, Division I. This move will serve to elevate the University athletically and academically. This is a proud moment for this institution; for our students, faculty and staff; for our more than 47,000 alumni; and for this community and the State of Indiana."

USI has won four team national championships at the Division II level, along with 10 individual national championships. The school is adding swimming and diving next fall, bringing the total number of varsity sports to 19.

The Screaming Eagles' men's basketball program had its best stretch under now-Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who spent nine seasons at USI. Pearl led the program to back-to-back national championship games in 1994 and 1995, losing in the title game in 1994 and winning the championship in 1995. The team went to nine consecutive NCAA tournaments under Pearl.