OMAHA, Neb. — The University of Nebraska at Omaha announced Sunday that it plans to switch to the Summit League for Division I play and eliminate its football and wrestling programs.
The school said it received an offer Friday to join the conference, which does not compete in those sports, starting in 2012. UNO currently competes in Division II through the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association — except for men’s ice hockey, which is Division I. The school relies on hockey to generate revenue for the athletic department’s 14 other sports.
UNO has been considering a switch to Division I for years. But school officials said the decision was forced by a NCAA ban on division jumps that begins June 1. They said money also was a factor, as UNO’s football and wrestling programs lose money.
But the Mavericks have been competitive in those two sports. The football team went to the NCAA D-II championship game in 2007, and the wrestling team won its third consecutive NCAA DII championship on Saturday. It was the wrestling team’s sixth such victory in eight seasons.
Athletic director Trev Alberts said the football team is a drain on the $9.5 million athletic budget and the wrestling team would need more funds to become competitive at a higher level. He says the athletic program could face financial collapse in five years if the changes aren’t made.
UNO will add men’s soccer and golf.
Alberts said the school will honor the scholarships already awarded for football and wrestling and provide coaches with separation packages.
University regents must approve the conference change, which was first reported by the Omaha World-Herald.
UNO would replace Southern Utah, which is leaving the Summit League for the Big Sky Conference. Other Summit teams are Centenary, IPFW, IUPUI, Missouri-Kansas City, North Dakota State, Oakland, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State and Western Illinois.