Flashback Friday is looking back at the top moments from the 2018-19 athletic year each Friday over the summer at the College of Staten Island. It’s time for our top moment from the past academic year and it should come as no surprise, as perhaps this year’s moment is the top historical moment in school history, as the Dolphins’ program applied and was later accepted into the NCAA Division II membership process.

#1 – CSI applies and is accepted to NCAA Division II
Date:  March 1 – July 12, 2019
Who:  CSI Athletics Program
Where: College of Staten Island – Staten Island, NY
What Happened:  In a landmark decision, CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz made it official by officially announcing CSI’s intended move to NCAA Division II in March of 2019.  The move came with an invitation to the East Coast Conference in time for provisional status beginning in 2019-20.  In July of 2019, the NCAA made it official, granting acceptance into the membership process of NCAA Division II, marking the end of a 43-year run in Division III that the Dolphins have been a part of. CSI will officially begin entry as a Division II member this coming school year, and will adopt a full East Coast Conference schedule and offer academic scholarships beginning in 2020-21.

Staff 14 - Gomes HSQ&A…with Director of Athletics Charles Gomes

Charles, tell us about the moment the President shared with you the thoughts of moving to NCAA Division II and your impressions of the news?
It didn’t come as a surprise to me because it was a long term discussion we were having.  We explored it a great deal, looking at what the best fit for us would be.  About 10 years ago the school considered the move but I don’t think we were ready, but it began the discussion.  The campus has changed so much over that time, with housing, the addition of full-time coaches, the implementation of a Strategic Plan, and so this move became a better fit for us moving forward.  

Of course, the first thing people think about when they think of a transition from Division III to Division II is scholarships.  But what have you learned during the process that also makes being a Division II school very different from Division III?
I know most athletes are going to see the opportunities for scholarships and so will many coaches as a prime change between the two divisions.  What has crystallized to me during this process is how very different compliance is.  Whether it’s the playing and practice seasons, recruiting rules, attaining and maintaining academic eligibility, those are the things that have materialized as a primary focus.  We are all working hard to make sure we follow those rules and maximize what we can do during the offseason, giving the best possible experience to our student-athletes, while giving ourselves a great opportunity to be successful on the field of play. 

To gain entry to Division II, you and the CSI Athletics team worked feverishly to put together an application worthy of review and showcasing the program and its deserving of the upward move.  Tell us a little about what was involved in that process.
It was a really long process but the whole process of putting together the application, going through the site visit, sending additional documentation when necessary, solidified for me that we were making the right move.  It brought together so many people, not just in our department but campus-wide, communicating and planning, and we realized how much support was out there and was invigorated by this move.  I think it did well to illustrate that this was the right move for our institution.

And then there is the wait.  From the time you submit the application to the time you get the news is five months of prep work and anticipation.  What happens during that time, and how do you best bridge the gap, trying to stay tempered, while also trying to prepare for what Division II will hold?
You really just try to focus on the things you can control.  For us, we continued those meetings we were having with Financial Aid, the Bursar, Advising, Recruitment & Admission, and continued that education and progress.  That prep work has helped us to amend even original ideas tied to our application, allowing us to be more efficient.  When you’re able to talk through the processes that we’d be facing, it allowed us to work better.  It seems like a long wait time but there was so much being done during that process that it was something necessary and that we got a great education from.

When you get that call on July 12, it has to be a great feeling and a treasured memory.  Tell us a little about that feeling and how excited you were personally at the news.
We were certainly all hopeful but you’re never 100-percent sure.  I will always remember the reaction of our staff jumping up and clapping and the feeling we all had in the moment.  Getting the many phone calls from people on campus, colleagues, and members of the community reaching out to congratulate us just reinforced the move and made it clear to me that this was a great move for our campus and the community. 

The acceptance also comes with entry, albeit fully next year, into the East Coast Conference.  What are some of the things you are looking forward to joining a new conference and one as competitive as the ECC?
I think it will be great to establish some new rivalries.  Obviously, you have a fellow CUNY school in Queens to establish a nice rivalry with, but even the other schools that are now in our conference and the surrounding region, although we are provisional, it will great for us to meet the challenges that those schools will present to us.  We are now not only competing against them on the field but also with recruiting, and that competition has already begun.  

You mention being provisional and the move comes with a three-year provisional window, whereby the department has to meet thresholds of success.  It’s a lot of work, but also a great chance to truly shape and nurture the program in time for full qualification.  What do you need to get done in the next three years? 
We referenced this before, but the difference in compliance at the two levels will definitely call on us to change our compliance measures immediately.  Getting adjusted to new playing and practice seasons, what we can do during off-seasons, our student support services, progress towards degree requirements, it is a transition and it makes me appreciate the provisional period.  Recruiting is also going to be a huge focus for us.  This is where we will have huge changes to make in how we recruit and package kids for scholarships, and we have a lot of work to do on those fronts.

How will you measure success with this venture?  What are some of the things that need to happen in order for you to know that this move, especially after the three-year provisional window, was a success?
Obviously we want to be competitive on the field, but beyond that we recognize that the move is much bigger than that.  We want to make sure that how we are operating is in-line with the College’s Strategic Plan and the framework of the ECC and Division II.  There were reasons why we thought this was a good fit, and we have to deliver on those reasons: having our students progress towards degree, graduating, making our school a destination campus, a first-choice institution, continuing to integrate our communication efforts with the rest of campus, these are just a few of the things we need to build on.  We all want to make sure we prove why we are good fit for this move.

Some may take for granted the excitement level and forget that this is an enormous responsibility for you and the staff at CSI.  Do you ever feel the pressure as the Director to see a venture like this through and how do you deal and adjust so that you can meet the challenge?
I don’t know if pressure is really something we feel as a staff.  I would say it’s more about excitement at accepting the challenges. We have a great staff here at CSI that I feel looks forward to the unknown and enjoys that challenge.  I think we are all looking forward to competing against new teams, and creating new experiences for our student-athletes.  I think with the support that we are getting from everyone on campus its more excitement than pressure. 

Finally, this was the No. 1 moment on our countdown, but it’s probably the No. 1 moment in the history of CSI Athletics.  Can you put into words what that means to you, especially as someone who will be forever tied to the move historically?
I try not to look at it personally like that because we have a great team here that contributed to this success. I have a great deal of pride that our team has been able to accomplish something significant to the school and I’m confident that we can deliver and that we can house an athletics program that the school and the borough of Staten Island can be proud of.    

Other Highlights
CSI Story on Announcement
CSI Story on Acceptance
ECC Story & Coverage
CSI Move II Division II Special
Why DII? A Conversation with President Fritz