DSU Athletics shoot for stability in next five years

Graphic by Valerie De La O.

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St. George is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and Dixie State University is expanding just as fast.

DSU’s growth and expansion in the past several years, especially in the world of athletics, is noteworthy. DSU has gone from a junior college to a NCAA Division II institution in a matter of 12 years. DSU athletics left the PacWest this year, where they have won 19 conference championships, to join the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

“The teams in the RMAC are extremely competitive, and our teams are just going to get better because of that,” Athletic Director Jason Boothe said. “It’s exciting to see where we match up and how we do.”

He said the move will take some getting used to, but ultimately it will provide room for growth and success across the board.

However, Boothe said although the growth has been great, DSU doesn’t plan on slowing down.

“The growth here, in enrollment and everything, is taking us on a path where going Division I at some point down the road is almost an eventuality, but not necessarily something we have to do if it doesn’t work for us,” Boothe said.

Boothe said the Western Athletic Conference, an NCAA Division I institution, has approached DSU to see if the university would be interested in joining, although they have not issued an official invitation.  DSU has hired a consultant to see what it will take to tackle this, Boothe said.

“The entire purpose behind hiring someone to research this is to see, if we do get an official invitation down the road if it’s something we could do, athletically and financially as an institution,” Boothe said.

There are many factors that go into a decision like this, Boothe said, and DSU is actively looking into all of them. This report, which began in July and will be finished hopefully this semester, will give DSU an idea of where they are at currently and what needs to be done in order to tackle an athletic change like this, he said.

Jon Judkins, men’s basketball head coach, said he was here when DSU made the jump from junior college to Division II, and he said he felt the jump came kind of quickly. He said athletically the change was needed, but academically it was a huge jump students weren’t totally ready for, and in areas of recruiting and getting athletes into the programs they wanted to study, DSU had some trouble.

“If and when we make this jump, I hope we do it right,” Judkins said. “And I think that’s what our president and athletic director are doing, with bringing in this consultant. They are making sure that we are ready, in all aspects. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen, and I think it will be great.”

Sydney Johnson, a sophomore business administration major from Spokane, Washington, said the idea of DSU going DI changes everything for our student athletes.

“Going DI would challenge us with a higher level of competition that I think all of us are looking forward to,” Johnson said. “Our team now is very competitive and we work really hard, so the potential shift is exciting because it will allow us to compete and excel at a higher level of play.”

The possibility of going DI brings a lot of excitement for students, faculty, staff and members of the community alike, but Boothe said it is an ongoing process and until they have the report back from the consultant, they do not know if it is something we can even do. A change like this takes time, Boothe said, and if the change does happen, it will be when it is the right time.

“Bottom line is we are always going to do what is best for [DSU],” Boothe said. “Whether that is staying where we are, or going DI. We want to do it right, we want to compete, and we want to whatever is going to be the best option for success for our teams and our institution.”