UNO to announce acceptance to Southland Conference
The University of New Orleans is being granted membership to the
Southland Conference, marking another major step for an athletics
program that has struggled to stay afloat since Hurricane
League and school officials have scheduled an official
announcement Thursday. Former UNO basketball standout Gabe
Corchiani, now one of the program’s top boosters, says officials
have already disclosed the decision to him.
”It’s wonderful. It’s a big step for University of New Orleans
athletics because of the predicament the university has been in for
the last year and a half,” Corchiani said. ”It’s going to be a
great day for the university to go ahead and put a foot forward in
the rebuilding process, staying Division I and now getting into a
UNO has fielded Division I sports for decades and its history
includes appearances in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and
the College World Series.
Shortly after the storm, Corchiani was instrumental in
renovating Lakefront Arena with a new court, locker rooms and
basketball office, including a theater-style room for reviewing
However, university finances as a whole after Katrina became so
tight that officials drafted an unpopular plan to leave the Sun
Belt Conference and switch to Division III, which does not offer
After the NCAA had approved that step, the university changed
course and applied instead for Division II. The NCAA approved that
change as well, but before the transition was complete, the
university got new leadership with the hiring of President Peter
Fos and Athletic Director Derek Morel.
Fos and Morel said they believed that remaining in Division I
was in the school’s best long-term interest.
”Derek has done a wonderful job,” Corchiani said. ”So has Dr.
Fos in hiring a good, credible athletic director who is
enthusiastic enough to go ahead and say, `Hey, we don’t need the
university going to D-II. We need to keep it at D-I, where it’s
been so many years and has been successful in the past. We need to
be able to build on that.”’
Corchiani said the Southland Conference is an ideal fit because
fellow league members Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana
offer natural rivals within driving distance, which should save on
travel costs while boosting attendance.
”Playing those types of schools can build your attendance,”
said Corchiani, ”And every person in a seat is valuable to a
university trying to build a program again.”