Staten Island, NY | A little more than five months after their application to join the NCAA Division II ranks, the College of Staten Island received their formal invitation today, as they have been accepted for entry by the NCAA Division II Membership Committee. The landmark moment in CSI Athletics’ history will see the program begin its journey as a provisional NCAA Division II member immediately, becoming a member of the East Coast Conference.
“I applaud the decision of the National Collegiate Athletics Association to elevate our championship Dolphins to Division II status,” said College of Staten Island President Dr. William J. Fritz. “For many years, the College’s academic programs, faculty, and students have been garnering national accolades for excellence, and I am pleased that our exceptional athletics teams are now also receiving much-deserved recognition.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” said Director of Athletics Charles Gomes. “The privilege to move into the NCAA Division II membership process was created through many years of establishing a culture that prioritizes the student-athlete experience, the value of teamwork, and a commitment to excellence in the classroom, on the playing field and in the Staten Island community.”
Acceptance to NCAA Division II comes with a built-in three-year provisional window, whereby the College will meet thresholds for success after each academic year. In Year One of the provisional period, CSI will implement its model for awarding athletic-related aid in time for the 2020-21 academic year. The institution will also abide by all Division II compliance measures regarding academic eligibility.
“We have always maintained high expectations for our student-athletes, coaches, and staff,” said Gomes. “With the transition to NCAA Division II, we will continue to raise the bar for all members of the CSI Dolphins community well into the future.”
With the decision of acceptance coming near the beginning of the 2019-20 academic school year, the Dolphins will honor their already-made 2019-20 competitive schedules, which includes a full regular-season schedule against the current City University of New York Athletic Conference. The school will also continue to follow all Division III playing and practice season rules until the close of each individual athletic sport’s season. Although it is expected that most CSI teams will play a variety of NCAA Division II teams this season, the Dolphins will formally take on a complete Division II schedule in 2020-21, their official entry into the ECC’s block schedule.
“The opportunity to align with the East Coast Conference as a result of our application to NCAA Division II will allow us to enhance our focus on the student-athlete experience,” said Gomes. “We were impressed with the quality of competition and attention that would be provided in the ECC and are looking forward to matriculating into play as a member of the conference moving forward.”
The East Coast Conference features nine other schools, comprised of public and private institutions. Currently, seven members are based in New York (Daemen College, Mercy College, Molloy College, NY Institute of Technology, Queens College, Roberts-Wesleyan College, and St. Thomas Aquinas), while University of Bridgeport (Connecticut) and the University of the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) are the out-of-state constituents. CSI will join fellow CUNY member, Queens College, as the only NCAA Division II institutions in the five New York City boroughs, and the only public NCAA Division II institutions in New York State. Participation in the ECC and NCAA Division II will bolster the range of regional competition and the NCAA Division II’s championship participation ratio of 1:8.3 is the best among all NCAA Divisions, giving future Dolphins team improved access to postseason play.
“On behalf of the East Coast Conference and its member institutions, we are truly excited with the news of the College of Staten Island’s acceptance into the Division II membership process and as a provisional member of the ECC,” said ECC Commissioner, Dr. Robert Dranoff. “This is a program with a strong tradition in intercollegiate athletics and academics and a big part of the Staten Island community. The work done by President William Fritz and Director of Athletics Charles Gomes and the entire staff in putting together their DII application is a great indication of the commitment they have made to this program and their readiness for this next step. We believe they will make an excellent member of the East Coast Conference.”
Many coaches at CSI are excited about the opportunities that the ECC and Division II has to offer. Men’s Basketball head coach T.J. Tibbs is embracing the move. “I am extremely excited, as both a coach and an alumnus, with our move to Division II. We are looking forward to the new challenges that our program needs to face. Our staff looks forward to joining a terrific conference and working to identify student-athletes who can be ambassadors for our community moving forward.”
In fact, several coaches at CSI are looking forward to raising the competitive bars of their respective programs in line with the rigorous academic pursuits inherent at the NCAA Division II level, and the competitive level of the ECC.
“We are very excited to try to take our game to the next level and play against a higher caliber of competition,” said Men’s Soccer head coach John Tardy. “A lot of our athletes aspire to play at the Division I or II levels, so being able to test their abilities and grow as students, athletes, and people is all a challenge we are looking forward to.”
“The Division II student-athlete has an unwavering work ethic and passion for the game that will enrich the culture of our program and, in turn, our institution,” said second-year Women’s Basketball head coach Nicole Sarcone. “They will be students who make positive impacts on our athletics program, academic institution, and community during their experience at CSI.”
CSI Baseball head coach Michael Mauro, who is the longest-tenured CSI head coach on staff, agrees. “Bringing in the best student-athletes from all over the country and having them live in our residence halls and experience the Division II lifestyle will bring so much to the College. These students will be getting a top-notch education as well as some of the best baseball our region has to offer as part of the ECC.”
According to Fritz, the move to NCAA Division II fits in perfectly with the tenets of the College’s Strategic Plan and will continue CSI’s standing as a scholar-athlete driven athletic program, with 50% of CSI’s student-athlete body holding a 3.00 cumulative GPA or better, with 38% holding a 3.2 or higher.
“The move to NCAA Division II fits every Strategic Priority of the College’s latest Strategic Plan: student success, global engagement, borough stewardship, destination campus, scholarship-driven education, and resource management,” said Dr. Fritz. “As CSI Athletics enters Division II, its standing as a scholar-athlete driven athletic program will remain on track. It firmly supports our efforts to provide our student-athletes with a scholarship-driven education and further cement CSI’s status as a destination campus for student-athletes, not only from this borough and this city, but nationally and globally.”
College Provost J. Michael Parrish echoed the President’s sentiments, as did Faculty Athletic Representative Dr. Christine Flynn-Saulnier. “The acceptance of CSI Athletics into NCAA Division II will greatly enhance our ability to provide critical financial support to our student-athletes to ensure that they not only succeed on the playing field, but also in the classroom and, eventually, in their careers,” said Parrish. “I’ve always been proud that academically, our DIII student-athletes have compared favorably to the rest of the student body,” commented Flynn-Saulnier. “I’m pleased that the academic standards for DII are even higher because I’m confident that our student-athletes will rise to meet those expectations.”
CSI coaches and staff are in line with expected academic and athletic changes inherent in NCAA Division II as well.
“I could not be more excited about the move to Division II,” said Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator Erin Van Nostrand. “CSI has always stood out to me with its location, fantastic academics, and facilities. I think this move allows us to make a huge impact on the national landscape. It allows us to recruit student-athletes from around the country who will have a broad impact on the CSI community as a whole. I have no doubt our student-athletes and coaches are ready to raise the bar.”
“NCAA Division II helps to enhance and develop our program by having a better opportunity to recruit a higher level student-athlete,” commented Swimming & Diving head coach Michael Ackalitis. “These student-athletes are held to high academic standards which will, in turn, help our campus. With the possibility of offering scholarships, we broaden our window for recruiting in hopes to have more diverse teams with students from all different backgrounds in line with our Strategic Plan.”
“We’re very excited about the culture change,” said Women’s Soccer head coach Brittany Casares. “This will be a time for us to build our program to compete at a higher level, seeing more players from out of state and internationally coming to CSI. It’s a great opportunity not only for our athletics program but for the entire College of Staten Island community.”
CSI’s admission to NCAA Division II comes on the heels of a tremendous run within NCAA Division III as part of the CUNY Athletic Conference. Dolphins’ programs have won 108 conference championships since 1976, many of those tied to automatic entry to NCAA national tournament postseason play.
CSI senior and Men’s Soccer captain Ryan Layman has been a part of that success and is just as anxious to usher in the future. “This is going to bring the level of play much higher and set our goals and challenges higher,” he said. “It also allows a larger variety of students to attend CSI and that will make the entire school and the community of Staten Island that much better.”
“We can’t wait to get started,” said Gomes. “Membership in the ECC and the move to Division II is aligned with the College-wide Strategic Plan and demonstrates our commitment to striking the appropriate level of balance between the student and the athlete. It’s going to be an exciting time for us at CSI.”
With the transition now in full swing, CSI Athletics has created a Landing Page that outlines its move to NCAA Division II, complete with information, timelines, and frequently asked questions, available HERE.
To see the Official NCAA Release, Click HERE