An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education stated that financial reasons have forced Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) to remain in NCAA Division II instead of completing its transition to move to the NCAA’s most competitive league, Division I. “The resources to complete the reclassification simply were not available, currently nor prospectively, in sufficient amounts,” said Donald J. Reaves, the university’s chancellor. “If there were any reasonable way to complete this transition without diverting resources from competing academic priorities, I would have recommended that we stay the course.” According to the NCAA, WSSU was the first college to choose to remain in Division II after already having begun the transition to Division I-Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). In 2006, no no athletics program in Division I-FCS posted a profit, with the average deficit was more than $7-million.
In its efforts to join Division I since its application in 2005, WSSU nearly doubled its athletics budget, added four more sports, expanded the number of scholarships available to athletes, and joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), a prominent athletics league for historically black colleges. However, a $6 million defecit during its transition and a projected $15 million defecit by 2012 proved too much for the institution. According to the Chronicle, the WSSU athletics revenue lagged far behind its expenses largely because of the department’s dependence on student fees. While the fee of $579 per student is among the largest in the University of North Carolina system, it is one of the lowest in the MEAC. In February, the state university system’s Board of Governors rejected a proposal to increase the fees.
WSSU officials state it may likely reduce its scholarships, teams, and athletics staff next year to compete in Division II. They hope to rejoin the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the Division II league in which Winston-Salem’s teams competed previously.