What's next for IUPUI athletics? Staying in the Horizon League and 'tough decisions'

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What’s next for IUPUI athletics? The announcement that IUPUI will split into two separate schools, where Indiana University and Purdue University will oversee their respective academic programs, leaves more questions than answers.

Indiana University will oversee intercollegiate athletics for the downtown campus. IU president Pam Whitten said an athletics task force has been formed and the plan is for IU Indianapolis to remain a part of the Horizon League, and thus will remain an NCAA Division I program. IUPUI joined the Horizon League in 2017. Currently, more than 300 IUPUI students participate on 18 intercollegiate teams.

Whitten said it would be “premature” to divulge details on what intercollegiate athletics will look like for the campus when the realignment takes place in time for the start of the 2024 school year.

IUPUI men's basketball team in the huddle with coach Matt Crenshaw.
IUPUI men's basketball team in the huddle with coach Matt Crenshaw.

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“We certainly will continue with the robust, competitive teams that play at IUPUI, soon to be IU Indianapolis,” she said.

For students who are enrolled at IU Indianapolis, it would seem to be a simple process to compete on the school's intercollegiate team. For a Purdue Indianapolis student, uncertainty remains. Purdue president Mitch Daniels pointed to the less than 1% of Purdue students who compete on intercollegiate teams.

“We hope that there'll be an opportunity, whether any meaningful number ever take it or not,” he said. “We think many of them will only be here for a year studying and working. We do occasionally have a computer science major or an engineering major on a varsity team, but the demands of a Purdue education, especially in those areas, are pretty severe. I don't think it's going to come up too often, but we definitely will work with IU. We hope that the NCAA will give some leeway to this unusual arrangement in the event that that person comes along.”

The NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, referred IndyStar’s questions back to the schools. It did not have a response to Daniels’ hope for “leeway.” Of the 27,000 students at IUPUI, nearly 90% would receive an IU degree. A breakdown of the athletes who are enrolled in IU programs vs. Purdue programs is not available.

Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne became Purdue Fort Wayne in July 2018. When the split was finalized, IU students enrolled at Purdue Fort Wayne were not allowed to participate in Division I athletics. At the time, three IU student athletes requested waivers to maintain their athletic eligibility, the Associated Press reported. NCAA rules state players from two different schools cannot compete on the same team.

Quinn Buckner, an IU basketball legend and chair of the school’s board of trustees, said IU Indianapolis will learn from the “experiences” of the recent Purdue Fort Wayne transition.

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“You learn some things to do and things not to do,” he said. “We’ll have members of both teams who have been a part of that that can bring that expertise to the table.”

When asked if Purdue Indianapolis students will be able to play on intercollegiate teams, he said, “I don’t have an answer to that question. My instincts, unlearned from this situation, is yes. But I don't know how that's going to come out.”

However, he left open the possibility that students will have to make some “tough decisions.”

“We wanted to come out where it is fair for everyone, but I suspect they'll have to make some tough decisions,” he said. “I don't like that there have to be tough decision for young people, but the reality of life is there are tough decisions, because that's all life is. It's about making those decisions.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: What does Indiana University, Purdue split mean for IUPUI athletics