Dixie State University athletics program has been along the ride as DSU has changed over the years, physically and as an institution.
DSU joined the NCAA Division II and began competing in Pacific West Conference in 2006. Since then, DSU athletic teams made 33 appearances in the NCAA tournament and won 18 PacWest Conference Championships.
From NJCAA to NCAA
To eligibly compete in the NCAA, academics must be a focus for all athletes. According to NCAA.org, certain criteria has to be met, such as taking an ACT or SAT, graduating high school with completion of 16 core courses, earning at least a 2.0 GPA in core courses, and sending an official transcript to the NCAA Eligibility Center.
According to NCAA.org, in order to compete at a junior college level, student athletes must be a graduate of high school, have an approved GED, or have an approved high school equivalency test.
Ross Decker, assistant coach of the women’s cross country and women’s distance track team, began coaching in 2008. But he fondly remembers Dixie’s years in the NJCAA.
During his time as a math professor, Decker remembered four of his students who played basketball in the junior college level who later went on to play in the NBA. One of them is Lionel Hollins, who recently coached the Brooklyn Nets. Hollins was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1975.
“From a fan’s perspective, it was kind of fun with the junior college level teams because a lot of times we’d get outstanding athletes who didn’t have the grades to compete in NCAA due to academics,” Decker said.
In Dixie’s junior college days, Decker said the school had good rivalries with Snow College, Ricks College, which later became Brigham Young University-Idaho, and Utah Valley University, which used to be a junior college.
“That’s one of the things I miss now that we’ve been in the NCAA is we haven’t really had a good rival,” he said.
Looking to the future
As DSU’s athletic program continues to compete in the NCAA, more changes are approaching.
DSU recently signed 21 players: three in women’s volleyball, three in women’s basketball, one in men’s golf, two in women’s golf, three in women’s swimming, five in baseball, and four in softball.
“Signing new student athletes is a great way to recruit new students and also allows for more diversity on our campus,” said Jaclyn Kerouac, NCAA advisor and eligibility coordinator. “Some of the students who are recruited to play sports at DSU come from different areas of the country that otherwise may never be visited by DSU recruiters.”
As one of the changes, Kerouac said the NCAA will be using a sliding sclae for ACT scores.
“So, if a student has a super high GPA in the core 16 classes, then his or her ACT score can be lower, or vice versa.”
All athletic teams will also begin competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in the 2018-19 academic year, which football has already been competing in since 2016.
Since Jason Boothe’s start as athletic director in 2010, DSU has added women’s golf, women’s swimming and women’s track. The university is also currently undergoing a Title IX review to see if any more women’s sports need to be added.
“We gained a lot more national prominence mostly because of the success of our teams,” Boothe said. “We’ve definitely grown.”