(Pictured L – R) UIW Athletics Director Mark Papich, UIW President Dr. Louis Agnese and SLC Commissioner Tom Burnett are joined by Red the Cardinal and members of the UIW cheer squad and dance team as the university celebrates day one in the NCAA Division I Southland Conference.

Excitement filled the air at UIW on July 1 as UIW President Dr. Louis Agnese and Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett raised the conference flag, officially commemorating the university’s first day in the NCAA Division 1 Southland Conference (SLC).

Held on Dubuis Lawn, hundreds of Cardinals fans cheered at the celebration marking the first day of a new era at UIW. The university was previously a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference.

“This is a truly historic day for UIW,” said Agnese. “We’re pleased and honored to officially become a member of the Southland Conference.”

“This is an exciting time for UIW as we become a member of Southland, a high caliber Division I conference. Joining the Southland Conference is the next step in the journey Dr. Agnese envisioned for UIW over 25 years ago,” said UIW Athletics Director Mark Papich.

UIW begins the four-year shift to Division I with the Southland Conference’s assistance and oversight. It is expected that UIW will begin counting as an NCAA Division I team for scheduling purposes in 2014-15, and will be fully eligible for NCAA Championship events in 2017-18. In total, UIW sponsors 21 teams in nine men’s and 10 women’s sports more than any other NCAA Division II school in the State of Texas.

UIW’s journey to Division 1 began July 20, 2012 when UIW hosted a four-person delegation from the SLC. The visit familiarized the delegation and its members with the university and Cardinals athletics.

The Southland Conference participates in the NCAA’s Division I for all sports; for football, it participates in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Member schools of the SLC are:  University of Central Arkansas, Lamar University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Oral Roberts University, Sam Houston State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.