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ABILENE, Texas – The NCAA officially announced that it accepted McMurry University into NCAA Division II candidacy period Tuesday morning bringing back scholarship athletics to the institution for the first time since the 1976-77 school year.

Careful planning, research and strategy for the transition began more than a year for the school, and the university’s board of trustees approved the application process to move from NCAA Division III to Division II Dec. 17.

“It’s a great day for McMurry, and we have been excited about planning for the move, but now the pins and needles feeling is over,” said athletic director Ron Holmes. “We’re ready to move forward in official capacity, and now we’re closer to getting our teams eligible for the NCAA Division II playoffs.”

Acceptance by the NCAA means that McMurry begins its candidacy period in 2011-12, and would be eligible to compete in NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in 2014-15.

The War Hawks will compete one final year in Division III as a member of the American Southwest Conference in 2011-12.

The board’s approval of the process was based on the impact on the entire McMurry community. From recruiting, admissions, athletics and academics, the board, along with university president Dr. John Russell concluded the move for the athletics program would benefit the entire institution.

After Tuesday’s announcement, Russell reiterated his excitement for the positive impact expected for the university.

“We started down this road because of the impact the Division II transition has had on the academic profile of those schools who had journeyed before us. And while that motivated our initial investigation, we’ve learned of the variety of benefits that accrue a successful transition to NCAA Division II,” said Russell. “We are eager to get underway and are appreciative of the confidence placed in us by the McMurry Board of Trustees, the Heartland Conference and the NCAA.”

During the candidacy process, the Heartland Conference accepted McMurry as a member beginning in 2012-13. That would allow for 12 of the War Hawks’ 19 intercollegiate sports to be sponsored by the Division II conference that features schools from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Football, men’s & women’s indoor and outdoor track along with men’s and women’s swimming will compete independently.

In the first year of the candidacy period, and McMurry’s final year in the NCAA Division III and ASC, the institution will begin work required by the NCAA to move forward towards a minimum of one probationary year. The two-year candidacy period for McMurry begins this school year in its final year with Division III.

Between now and June 1, 2012, McMurry must complete the following

tasks: visit a Division II campus selected by the NCAA Division II Membership Committee, conduct a Division II Institutional Self-Study Guide, demonstrate involvement and commitment of the McMurry president in the Division II membership process, receive an on-campus assessment conducted by an NCAA-approved outside group to determine the readiness of McMurry to become an active member, and produce an annual report of McMurry’s strategic plan for moving forward in Division II.