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UNO Athletics to remain Division I in NCAA

More than two years after initiating the process to depart NCAA Division I, UNO will announce that it is going to remain in the NCAA's top athletics classification at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

New UNO President Dr. Peter Fos has been considering the future of the athletic program since being named to his post on Dec. 9.

Thursday's announcement will make unclear the future of athletic director Amy Champion, a proponent of moving to Division II. Champion assumed the title of interim athletic director in April 2010 and had the interim tag removed on Oct. 15, 2010.

The Privateers' return to Division I will begin speculation about conference affiliation. They could possibly join the Southland Conference which currently includes Louisiana schools Northwestern State, McNeese State, Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana. A return to the Sun Belt Conference, which includes Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe, is not out of the question.

The Southland currently has 12 members but will lose Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Texas-Arlington at the end of the current school year. Oral Roberts will join the league in 2012 and Houston Baptist will join the Southland in 2013. UNO could become the 12th member, equaling the league's current membership.

UNO was a charter member of the Sun Belt Conference before leaving the conference in 1979 to become an independent.

The Privateers joined the American South Conference in 1987 and rejoined the Sun Belt when the two leagues merged in 1991. UNO officially left the Sun Belt on July 1, 2010.

In February 2011, UNO announced that it was seeking a return to Division II. Under Champion, UNO's application was accepted into the Gulf South Conference.

Over the past year, many of UNO's athletic teams have competed against Gulf South competition, including volleyball and baseball.

UNO, which has operated for the last two years as a Division I member in transition, began looking at opportunities to leave the NCAA's top classification as early as three years ago.

In December 2009, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved then-UNO Chancellor Dr. Tim Ryan's recommendation to move from Division I to Division III. In July 2010, the school officially applied for Division III membership.


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