EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Four months ago, the University of Southern Indiana declared that it would be making the transition to Division I athletics and into the Ohio Valley Conference. Now, the days are dwindling until the change is official. This Friday, July 1, the Screamin’ Eagles are officially a part of the OVC. As USI says goodbye to the GLVC, the athletic department welcomes many changes from rules to new faces.
“We’re adding some new staff members, so we’re doing a lot of job interviews right now and trying to get that team in place,” said Athletic Director Jon Mark Hall. “From a coach and student athlete standpoint, it’s just a lot of rules changes. You just do things a little bit differently. The recruiting is a little different for coaches, roster management is a little different for coaches and student athletes. There’s just a lot of different rules and expectations put into place.”
Head volleyball coach Randi Raff said throughout those differences, there are still a lot of things that will operate the same.
“As far as like day to day like work that I’m doing as a coach, things didn’t change too much,” said Raff. “We’re still trying to recruit great athletes who want to win and win at the highest possible level. So really, it hasn’t changed my day to day too much. I think it’s just more how we’re thinking about things and how we’re approaching the mindset of a new and different challenge and all those sorts of things.”
As the day gets closer that USI is officially a Division I school, the excitement grows.
“The anticipation is growing,” said Hall. “And I think really for us, we’re just excited to get into what we feel more comfortable in, and that’s during the school year and competing against like institutions – in this case – the OVC. So I think our coaches and student athletes were really excited to get to where they were like, ‘Okay, we’re in, we’re fully vetted, we get to compete.’ And yes, I think the excitement is definitely building.”
“I’m really excited,” said junior volleyball player Abby Weber. “I’m excited to be able to play new competition and see how good our team can be. Everyone I’ve talked to have been beyond excited. I think whenever we first found out, we were going to one every time we’d pass someone, we’d go ‘hey DI athlete.'”
And one of the best parts of the transition will be all the new sets of eyes watching them.
“Being a high level academic and also a high level athlete is something that doesn’t get a lot of recognition,” said Raff. “Especially at the Division II level where ultimately you’re doing the same jobs, you’re doing the same things as Division I athletes, you just don’t get the kind of recognition that they get as a DI athlete.”
“I think Friday will be basically kind of nice to know, we’re officially part of the OVC family and have the a lot of the privileges that other OVC institutions have,” said Hall.
USI will eligible to compete for OVC championships immediately.