There is only one year left between Southern Nazarene University and its full membership in NCAA Division II.
The school announced that it is advancing to the provisional year of the NCAA Division II membership process on July 12, and upon successful completion will be eligible for NCAA postseason play in the 2014-15 season.
Thirteen years after its inception, the football team will play its first full conference schedule and compete against 10 conference opponents and a nonconference foe.
“We are transitioning from the (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) to NCAA Division II,” Director of Athletics Bobby Martin said. “We are in the membership process; we have just moved into the provisional year, which if we successfully complete that, we would become active members the following year.”
The Crimson Storm just completed its second year of candidacy and its first year of playing in the Great American Conference.
In 2010, the school announced its intent to transition out of the NAIA and into the NCAA. In its first year (2011-12) of candidacy, Southern Nazarene competed in the NAIA. In its second year, the Crimson Storm was banned from both the NAIA and NCAA postseasons.
“We've been more successful than we probably we would have guessed early in the years,” Martin said. “It'll be interesting to see how successful we'll become in NCAA Division II.”
Football was started at SNU as a way to increase male enrollment and to add another fall sport at the school, Martin said. The football program was started in 2000, and the team didn't win its first home opener until 2007.
“It was such new experience for all of us, that we really didn't know what to expect at first,” Martin said about starting the program. “We believed strongly that we were going in the right direction, and therefore it would be fine for the institution. It's been successful. It's been a positive experience for Southern Nazarene University.”
Paul McGrady was the program's first coach, and he had a 35-23 record. McGrady's teams never had a losing season in his six-year tenure.
In McGrady's fourth season, the team climbed its way up to No. 15 in the NAIA polls. That was also the year SNU began competing in the NAIA Central States Football League. McGrady resigned in 2005 but remains with the athletic department. He is now the school's associate athletic director.
Mike Cochran took over the responsibilities in 2005, and in seven seasons, his record is 40-36.
In 2011, SNU had its best year, going 9-3 and reaching the first round the NAIA Football Championship Series.
The team won its second CSFL title, and for the second straight year, Cochran was named the Coach of the Year. SNU also had a school-record 15 All-CSFL selections.
While everyone at the school is proud of those accomplishments, there is no time for reminiscing. The Crimson Storm aspires to be just as dominant in its new division as it was in its old one.
With one more year left in the conversion process, the football team and other athletic programs must continue to show why they deserve membership in Division II.
“I like our leadership; our coach does a great job; our coaching staff they care deeply about the kids,” Martin said. “So from the standpoint, I think we're headed the right direction for sure. … I feel like we're still a young program, and I think we're really headed in the right direction.”