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Daemen bidding to join NCAA Division II

To Bill Morris, it's a perfect fit.

Daemen College already has a solid financial commitment to its athletic programs, including offering scholarships. The philosophy is about balance between academics and competition. And a little success along the way never hurts.

So today, Daemen officially will submit its application to the NCAA for membership at the Division II level. The Wildcats are hoping to move out of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and into the more recognizable home for college sports.

"I feel it's a good fit for the school academically and athletically," said Morris, Daemen's athletic director. "Division II is a happy medium where you can offer athletic scholarships and also sustain that life balance that Division II preaches And a lot of the change has to do with how the NAIA has changed geographically."

The NAIA has few members in the Northeast. Daemen used to compete regularly with Houghton and Roberts Wesleyan, but both have left for the NCAA -- Houghton at Division III and Roberts Wesleyan at Division II. Daemen already has an invitation from the East Coast Conference should its Division II membership application be approved by the NCAA. Roberts Wesleyan will be joining that conference next academic year. The 10-team league geographically resembles the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, with teams clustered in the New York City area -- St. Thomas Aquinas, Queens, New York Institute of Technology, Molloy, Mercy College, Dowling, C.W. Post -- along with Bridgeport (Conn.) and the University of the District of Columbia.

About a dozen institutions are vying for spots with the NCAA Division II membership committee likely taking eight schools. Applications are due June 1. The committee meets in July and the Wildcats should know shortly after the status of their application. If approved, the program would begin a three-year transition period.

What's the deal with Division II? It's a middle ground between Division I, which is cost-prohibitive for many schools, and Division III, which offers no athletic scholarships.

"At Division III the major philosophy is participation and opportunity," Morris said. "At Division I, you're talking about mostly full scholarships and fully funded programs. Division II is the happy medium. There's less competition permitted and less scholarships awarded. We really come down right in the middle. Today if we entered [the East Coast Conference] we'd be right in the middle financially with everything we offer."

The fit is good. Now Daemen just needs to convince the NCAA that it's growing and on the Division II track. With the addition of tennis and indoor track and field, Daemen now offers 14 intercollegiate sports. The school has added 12 teams over the past 14 years.

And those teams have been successful. Men's and women's basketball have been the standard bearers and this year both went to their respective national tournaments, finishing ranked in the top 25. Their women's soccer team, which lost in the conference tournament, was among those receiving votes in the final national poll.

"We're moving our program forward," Morris said. "We've had staffing additions and the support of the college administration. We're doing the right things and prepared to move forward and meet the vision of being an NCAA Division II school."

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Fredonia senior Amy Simon (Amherst) completed her collegiate career in lacrosse with several school records and her fourth straight All-State University of New York Athletic Conference honor. Simon is Fredonia's all-time goal scoring leader and set a school record wit 69 goals this season. She is also the program's all-time leader in draw controls, shots and shots on goal.

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It's NCAA time in track and field and both Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo have athletes in the mix.

In Division III, it's the national Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in California. Four women are competing, including Erica Johnson and Sasha Henry in the 100 meters. Jessica Walker qualified in the triple jump with a school record 12.19 meters, the fourth best distance in the nation this season. Jazmin Dunham will run the 100 hurdles as her ninth-best national time of 14.30 seconds was also a school record.

The four of them ran the 4x100 relay Thursday but failed to qualify for the final, finishing sixth in their heat and 11th overall at 47.53.

Jimmy Campbell qualified in the men's 400.

Meanwhile, 10 athletes from UB are at the NCAA East Region Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Fla., through Saturday. Seven women will represent the Bulls -- throwers Kristy Woods, Rachel Roberts and Erin Miller, hurdlers Brooklynn Ventura and Anna Holmes and middle-distance runner Asia Henry. Throwers Rob Golabek, Corey Knox and Jacob Sunday will compete for the men along with hurdler Will Cole.

Holmes advanced to today's quarterfinal round after she placed 21st in the 400-meter hurdles (59.5), while Henry qualified for the quarters in the 800-meters (2:06.34).

The top 12 finishers in each event move on to the NCAA National Championship meet, June 6-9, in Des Moines, Iowa.