By David Rung
Shifting membership in the Heartland Conference has put the Newman athletics program in a position to seek an NCAA Division II conference affiliation with member schools that more closely align with its institutional values and geographic location.
"We've been a stable and growing member of NCAA Division II and the Heartland conference for 11 years," Director of Athletics and Vice President for Student Affairs Vic Trilli said. "Throughout that time, we've positioned ourselves for improvement, and it is critical for us to seek a conference affiliation with schools that are a better fit for us when it comes to travel, rivalries, and the interest of our fan base.
"The landscape of college sports at all levels is always changing, and with change comes opportunity, including opportunities that weren't there for us when we first made the transition to Division II."
Newman has showcased impressive academics while continually improving its athletic success over the past 11 seasons. The Jets have posted the conference's highest overall GPA on seven occasions, and have been in the top two schools of the final tally all but once. On the field, Newman has finished solidly in the middle in both years that the league has presented an all-sports award for overall success.
All 18 of Newman's athletic programs have reached the postseason on multiple occasions, and 12 programs — men's and women's basketball, bowling, cross country, golf and triathlon, as well as wrestling and men's tennis — have qualified for national competition in the past 10 years.
"We are excited for the future of Newman athletics," said Newman President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D. "Aligning with a new NCAA Division II conference will provide the opportunity to better position the university to succeed in the future. The opening of our state-of-the-art science building moves Newman forward to make a greater difference for students and our community, and likewise, improving athletic conference affiliation will afford our student athletes better opportunities on and off the playing field and create an even more exceptional collegiate experience."
Newman entered the Heartland in a time of fluctuating membership, and helped become a stabilizing force in the league. Only three current members of the conference predate Newman's' membership, and six other schools have departed in the same period.
"We've forged some great relationships with these schools over the past decade," Trilli said. "But we're excited in the direction we're going. We've made vast improvements over that time, we have plans in motion to improve our facilities, and pursuing a new conference affiliation is the next step in providing the best possible situation for our student-athletes."
Newman remains committed to the Heartland Conference through the 2018-2019 academic year, with all schedules and commitments continuing through that time. The university and its athletic programs are set to remain competitive both academically and athletically through any possible future affiliations.