NCAA approves Penn State Brandywine’s application for exploratory year

Campus to begin multiyear process for transition to Division III athletics
Penn State Brandywine gym floor showing Penn State athletics logos.

Penn State Brandywine has been approved for an exploratory year in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The exploratory year will begin on Sept. 1.

Credit: Jeff Scarpone

MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine has been approved for an exploratory year in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The Division III membership committee approved the campus’ application at its Feb. 16 meeting.

An exploratory year provides institutions with an opportunity to learn more about the NCAA and Division III, which is the largest of the three divisions with more than 200,000 student-athletes at nearly 440 colleges and universities nationwide. Institutions that are accepted to the exploratory year participate in an orientation program that familiarizes them with the structure of the NCAA and Division III, the Division III philosophy, and Division III rules and regulations.

Brandywine’s NCAA Division III exploratory year officially begins Sept. 1 and will last throughout the 2023-24 academic year. Upon successful completion of the exploratory year, Brandywine will apply for provisional membership, which lasts for three years.

The four-year process, which leads to full NCAA membership if all requirements are met, includes educational and operational benchmarks that introduce institutions to the Division III philosophy and the best practices of model Division III institutions.

“We are excited and ready for Penn State Brandywine to build on its highly successful athletics program by transitioning to NCAA Division III. … We recognize the positive impact this will have not only on our student-athletes, but our entire campus community.”

—Marilyn J. Wells , chancellor, Penn State Brandywine

Penn State Brandywine Chancellor Marilyn J. Wells said transitioning to Division III athletics will enhance the student-athlete experience at Brandywine. She noted that the campus’ emphasis on academics and a well-rounded student-athlete experience aligns with the Division III philosophy.

“We are excited and ready for Penn State Brandywine to build on its highly successful athletics program by transitioning to NCAA Division III,” Wells said. “In fact, applying for NCAA Division III membership and enhancing our athletics program is one of 13 key objectives in our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, as we recognize the positive impact this will have not only on our student-athletes, but our entire campus community.”

‘We know that a sense of belonging is critical to our students’ success and persistence, and athletic programs provide our student-athletes with a close community of peers, as well as social and teamwork skills,” she added. “Our athletic teams also reflect the rich diversity of our campus and strengthen our commitment to an equitable and inclusive environment — one of three goals in our Strategic Plan.”

Athletic Director Bobbi Caprice — a former Brandywine student-athlete — emphasized that student-athletes are students first and said joining Division III will add to the resources and opportunities available to student-athletes.

“Our athletic program greatly enhances the collegiate experience for our student-athletes,” she said. “Not only do they receive support to excel in their chosen sports, but more importantly, they receive the resources to succeed academically, the organizational and goal-setting abilities to manage their time and priorities, and mentorship to help prepare them for success after graduation.

“Joining NCAA Division III will allow our campus to expand on the opportunities offered to our student-athletes and elevate their overall college experience at Penn State Brandywine, while maintaining the highest priority on our students’ educational experience.”

According to its website, “Division III athletics provides a well-rounded collegiate experience that involves a balance of rigorous academics, competitive athletics and the opportunity to pursue a multitude of other co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities,” and student-athletes graduate at a rate 5% higher than that of the general student body.

Brandywine’s 612-page application provided a thorough overview of the campus’ current athletics program and its policies and procedures. It was completed with input from multiple campus departments and faculty, including athletics, academic affairs, admissions, financial aid, finance and business services, student affairs, and strategic communications.

Wells said the comprehensive application reflected the strength of the current athletics program, and she credited the athletic staff, coaches and alumni for their support of student-athletes and their commitment to building on the program’s success.

Jonathan Savage, president of the Penn State Brandywine Advisory Board, said the board fully supports the campus’ transition to NCAA Division III.

“The board has long been supportive of the campus considering such an application and feels that the campus is well positioned at this time for a successful exploratory year,” he said. “The board looks forward to providing its full support, resources and expertise to ensure that the NCAA Division III exploratory year and the years beyond are a complete success and that our student-athletes continue to enjoy a meaningful athletic experience while earning their Penn State degree.”

Penn State Brandywine, with about 175 student-athletes, currently competes nationally in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) and statewide as a member of the Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC). The PSUAC includes 13 additional Penn State Commonwealth Campuses.

Five other Commonwealth Campuses are currently NCAA Division III members: Abington, Altoona, Behrend, Berks and Harrisburg. Penn State Abington will serve as Brandywine’s sponsor and mentor institution during the exploratory and provisional process.

Brandywine will continue to compete in the USCAA and the PSUAC during the exploratory year. Division III conference membership will be announced at a later date.

Brandywine offers 12 varsity sports: men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s golf.

Since winning its first conference championship in 1976 — the Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference men’s soccer title — Brandywine has added 38 more league crowns. During the past decade, nine teams have combined to claim 27 conference championships. Women’s teams have won two-thirds of those titles.

Since joining the USCAA at the beginning of the 2008-09 academic year, more than 130 Brandywine student-athletes have received all-American awards and the campus has won two USCAA national championships — both for men’s soccer in 2018 and 2021.

Campus athletics begin in 1968, one year after the campus was founded as Penn State Delaware County in temporary space underneath a roller-skating rink in Chester. The campus’ one team — men’s basketball — practiced at a local middle school and YMCA. The campus moved to its current location in 1970 and the name was changed to Penn State Brandywine in 2007.

In addition to Caprice, Recruiting Coordinator Myeisha Matos, two head coaches — Emily Battista (volleyball) and Vinny Gallo (baseball) — and several assistant coaches are former Brandywine student-athletes.

More information about Penn State Brandywine Athletics is available on the athletics department website.