University of West Georgia to move to NCAA Division I

The Wolves are moving up to Division I.

The University of West Georgia’s sports teams are leaving the NCAA Division II for the highest level of college athletics. The school expects to begin competing in the Atlantic Sun Conference starting next fall, after the Georgia Board of Regents on Friday approved the switch.

President Brendan Kelly said competing in Division I will elevate the university’s profile, boost school spirit and give more opportunities to hundreds of athletes.

“There’s going to be a lot of excitement around this move,” he said in a telephone interview Friday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s a totally different environment. Anytime you have the opportunity to compete on national television it changes the visibility of your institution generally.”

The Carrollton university enrolled nearly 12,000 students last year, making it the state’s seventh-largest public college. That means it’s more than three times as large as the average Division II school and larger than the average-size Division I school, Kelly said.

West Georgia currently offers nine women’s sports and five men’s sports. The school plans to add men’s indoor and outdoor track and field for the 2024-25 year. Also in the works: a new women’s beach volleyball team and women’s stunt, a form of competitive cheerleading.

Going forward, the football team will play against teams in the United Athletic Conference, an alliance between the Atlantic Sun and the Western Athletic conferences whose teams play in the FCS. West Georgia will become the 11th member of the UAC.

In the past 40 years, the school has competed in the Gulf South Conference, where it has won seven conference championships in the past decade.

West Georgia first began exploring a move to Division I about 10 years ago, and changes to its athletic conference membership made this the right time to make the jump, Kelly said.

The Division I move will diversify and grow revenue streams for the athletic program, he said. The school expects more ticket sales and larger conference distributions. He said there will be a “minimal investment” to get facilities ready for the change.

Other University System of Georgia schools competing in Division I include Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State.

The Board of Regents also approved a $12.3 million renovation of Kennesaw State’s baseball stadium.

The upgrade to Stillwell Stadium, built in the 1980s, mainly will be paid for through private donations. The plan is to install new turf, lighting, fencing and dugouts. Seating capacity will grow to 1,500, and updates to the press and concession areas also are included.