UMPI sports information director and associate men’s basketball coach Mark Knight talked about how they became a part of the ACC. “It was really luck. We knew that they were looking to expand and add a couple small schools. We put our name into the hundreds of DIII schools along the East Coast. Coach Kane and I presented to the Conference Expansion Committee in Greensboro. I guess our presentation stood apart from the rest,” Knight said. UMPI will join Northern Vermont Lyndon, a fellow North Atlantic Conference member, in the ACC.
“Coach Knight and I put together a presentation that centered around our area,” Kane said. Their presentation brought out the charm of a rural area. And what becoming a DI school could do for everyone from this area. “I think the committee loved that Presque Isle was small but had the essentials. We have an airport and a nice hotel for hosting highbrow teams,” Knight said.
With upcoming renovations to Wieden Hall, the athletic facilities for basketball will be more up to date. “With the new gym, we can bring in the Blue Devils or the Tar Heels and give a great showing to our university,” Kane said.
As for that money, Coach Kane and Coach Knight can envision a snowball effect. “If we upgrade the athletic facilities, we know this will attract more athletes to come here,” Coach Kane said. The first goal is to get a turf field for soccer in the fall, and for baseball, softball and track and field in the spring. “DI Athletes aren’t going to want to come play here if we can’t have home games in the spring. If we get fields that allow for more home games, we will get more talent,” Knight said.
Starting with athletic improvements, Kane and Knight hope this will cause a ripple effect for all of UMPI. “I don’t want to speak for the university. But I’m sure we can afford to have an enrollment increase,” Kane said. UMPI can still have a rural feel with a larger enrollment. “If we get bigger and more up to date, it could be great for this area,” Knight said.
Competing at an NCAA DI level will no doubt be huge for UMPI. It will put the small university on the map. With ESPN’s contract with the ACC, they will televise or stream all games on a national level. “If we get people watching us on TV, maybe they will think, “Hey, maybe being from a small town isn’t that bad after all,” Kane said.