Making the jump

Should Ferris Athletics be elevated to Division I?

Bulldog athletes have been playing at a high level for a long time now, but over the past year the university has seen success unlike anything they’ve experience before. From an NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship to an undefeated regular 2018 season for the football team, success is becoming a tradition for many programs.

So, with all the success, why are the Bulldogs still a Division II school? A better question might be: If moved to Division I, would Ferris experience the same amount of success?

The simple answer: No.

“We shouldn’t be a Division I team,” Ferris football senior tight end Matt Capasso said. “We haven’t even won a National Championship at the Division II level. With that said, I believe we could compete with some MAC schools.”

Mid-American Conference (MAC) universities are Division I schools that don’t receive as much national attention. The MAC includes schools such as Central Michigan University (CMU) and Western Michigan University (WMU). Moving Ferris to these ranks would make sense, but then comes the problem of playing highly regarded Division I talent.

The Bulldogs don’t have a very strong resume when it comes to competing against Division I powerhouses. Take for example the Ferris hockey team, the only Division I squad for the Bulldogs. Each year, the Bulldogs take on universities like WMU and Michigan State University (MSU), but over the past four seasons Ferris is a measly 4-12-1 against WMU, MSU and the University of Michigan.

Then there’s the case of the Ferris men’s basketball team. Hot off a 2017-18 Division II National Championship, the Bulldogs got the chance to take on legendary Division I powerhouse Duke University (Durham, North Carolina). The Bulldogs received an old fashioned beat down, falling by a score of 132-48.

The talent gap between Division I and Division II is fairly large for the most part, as the Bulldogs don’t have a player like Duke freshman forward Zion Williamson. However, players capable of playing at a higher level often find themselves playing at Division II.

“Our coach does a good job recruiting athletic and talented players that possibly could have played for a Division I mid-major program,” Ferris men’s basketball junior wing Greg Williams said. “So maybe in the future, if the tradition of winning is sustained and that reputation of having really talented players continue, then that could translate into moving to the Division I level sometime down the road.”

Success looks to be part of the Bulldogs’ future for a long time to come. After a Fall season saw three teams make the NCAA playoffs in women’s soccer, volleyball and football, only time will tell if Ferris has what it takes to make the jump to Division I.

Without National Championships, it’s hard to make a case for the Bulldogs, even if it is plausible to imagine that they could beat some lower tier Division I universities.

“The Division II level is best for our program due to our size and our school’s resources,” Ferris senior cross country and track runner Zach Mckenzie said. “One of the great things about running cross country and track at the Division II level is we still have the opportunity to compete against Division I teams on a regular basis at many meets.”