NCAA legislation permits a member institution to have one male and one female sport, other than football or men's or women's basketball, classified in a division other than the one in which it is a member. This multidivisional classification allowance for reclassifying institutions was affirmed by the NCAA in July 2004. Multidivisional classification is what allows institutions such as Minnesota State University and St. Cloud State University to field NCAA Division I men's and women's hockey programs while the remainder of their programs are classified at the NCAA Division II level. The University of North Dakota, which is on the same reclassification time line to NCAA Division I as USD, will continue to use its multidivisional classification to keep its hockey teams at Division I while bringing the remainder of its varsity programs to that level.
"Multidivisional classification is a terrific opportunity for our athletic department to accelerate the time frame for several of our student-athletes to participate in NCAA Division I postseason competition," said Nielsen. "Ultimately, we chose outdoor track and field for this opportunity not to slight any of our other sports, but because these programs have demonstrated sustained excellence over many years. Outdoor track and field also has the benefit of having large rosters, which provides greater opportunities for more student-athletes to compete in the NCAA Division I national postseason."
USD features a rich track and field history with 155 All-Americans and five National Champions at the Division II level for the men's program, while the women's program claims 195 All-Americans and 10 National Champions. The Coyotes have captured 11 North Central Conference men's outdoor team championships and six women's league titles, including each of the last three.
"This is great news for Coyote track and field," said Coyote director of men's and women's cross country and track and field/men's track and field head coach Dave Gottsleben. "The fact that our current freshmen will have the opportunity to compete in NCAA Division I national postseason competition by their senior year gives these student-athletes a new set of goals to set – and achieve – over the next three years."
"On behalf of the Coyote track and field programs, I appreciate the fact that we will lead USD's move into Division I though multidivisional classification," added USD women's track and field head coach Lucky Huber. "While this is certainly a tremendous responsibility, I have complete faith in the abilities of our current and future student-athletes, as well as our staff, to excel at this amazing opportunity."
The University of South Dakota offers 17 varsity sports, with seven for men (basketball, cross country, football, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and swimming and diving) and 10 for women (basketball, cross country, golf, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and volleyball). USD received unanimous permission from the South Dakota Board of Regents in December 2006 to reclassify its entire athletic program to the NCAA Division I level, with football competing at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA). The remaining 15 Coyote varsity teams other than the outdoor track and field squads will be eligible for NCAA Division I national tournament and postseason opportunities 2012-13.