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Savannah State moving back to NCAA Division II because of financial concerns

That means the Tigers are also leaving the MEAC

Money is the key reason Savannah State University plans to drop from Division I to Division II in all men’s and women’s sports as early as 2019, according to the school. Pending approval by the NCAA, the Tigers’ athletic programs also will leave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).

Savannah State President Cheryl Dozier announced the reclassification Monday. “While I am extremely proud of the progress our athletes and coaches have made at the Division I level, it is not financially feasible for us to continue,” she said. Dozier took over the presidency on an interim basis in 2011 and became full-time president in spring 2012.

The Tigers were a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), a Division II conference, from 1969 to 2000 before moving up to Division I. Savannah State, established in 1890 as Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth and renamed Savannah State College in 1950 and Savannah State University in 1996, has been participating in Division I athletics since leaving the SIAC.

Lack of success in football and men’s and women’s basketball, the main revenue-generating sports, are generally why a university moves down a level or even stops participating in intercollegiate athletics. And last season was not a good one for any of the Tigers’ main revenue sports.

The men’s basketball team finished its 2016-17 campaign with a record of 13-16, including a 10-6 conference record. The women’s basketball team was 12-19 and went 8-8 in MEAC play. The baseball team is currently 10-24, has won only one conference game this season in 12 attempts and has been swept in three-game series by HBCU baseball powerhouses Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman, as well as by North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T.

The Savannah State football program, a longtime source of pride and revenue at the university, started its 2016 season losing by a combined score of 110-0 to Georgia Southern and Southern Mississippi and closed its season on a three-game losing streak, finishing with a record of 3-7. All three victories came within the MEAC. The football program is 22-140 since it started playing in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Any move from Division I will have a transitional period of no less than three to four years, the same length of time for an athletic program to transition from a lower division to a higher one.

Division II athletics gained seven schools in 2015 and another six programs in 2017, while Division I had four programs — Abilene Christian University, Grand Canyon University, University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell — gain full active membership in assorted conferences.

The last HBCU to move from Division I to II was Winston-Salem State University, a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, in 2009. It made the move after five years in Division I, and its football team played in the Division II national championship game just three years later, losing to Valdosta State 48-21 in 2012.