Favorable YRC ruling is first of its kind by highest governing body in college sports

BISMARCK, ND — The NCAA had never seen anything like it before at any level, something so unprecedented—a paradigm shift in higher education. After deliberation, the NCAA has given its stamp of approval to the University of Mary’s one-of-a-kind Year-Round Campus (YRC) initiative. This decision now allows Mary student-athletes the option of completing their degree in 2.6 years or getting their master’s degree in four years without negatively impacting any athletic eligibility.

According to the NCAA and University of Mary, the biggest winner in this judgment is the student-athlete—who, in the past when enrolled full time in the summer, would have it count against their 10-semester clock.

“The Academic Requirements Committee determined that a student-athlete would not use a semester while enrolled as a full-time student during the summer term,” stated the NCAA letter to the University of Mary. “A student-athlete would only use a term while enrolled as a full-time student during the fall or spring term.”

Michael McMahon, vice president for Enrollment Management at Mary, made the announcement at a press conference today. He compares this YRC initiative with the pioneering spirit of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, who came to Dakota Territory in 1878 and eventually started this school on the bluff in 1959. McMahon recalls the conversation with the NCAA that draws the parallel between then and now.

“At one point, one of the NCAA staff members stated, ‘we haven’t seen anything like this before, but having seen it, we’re confident we’ll see many similar programs spring up in the future,’” said McMahon. “Hearing that the University of Mary was leading the way again, out in front and pioneering a solution to the critical need, I couldn’t help but think, how fitting. How fitting that this university still inspired by the commitment of services of our Sisters, would craft this innovative approach.”

Athletic Director Dale Lennon says there are 400 student athletes at the University of Mary. Because this new ruling goes into effect immediately, he foresees some of Mary’s current underclassmen, who have the most eligibility remaining, taking advantage of the opportunity. But he believes the biggest impact will come from future, incoming students who enroll at Mary this year and the years to come.

“We’re extremely excited about this decision by the NCAA that validates Year-Round Campus and allows our students and our future students to take full advantage of this option,” said Lennon. “Even if students choose not to participate as a full-time student in the summer, they can still benefit from the other components, which are incorporated into the Year-Round Campus experience. From personal experience as a former athlete and coach, and now as an AD, I know first-hand how they look forward to this helping their busy, extracurricular lives be more flexible, more accommodating and more affordable while attending Mary. And then they’re also rewarded later in life as they accrue less debt in school and increase earnings over their lifetime.”

In just over a year since its inception, Mary has seen the demand for YRC grow. The University of Mary believes as word gets out about this new option for students, and now with this ruling by the NCAA, the interest will continue to climb.

Former Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance at the University of Mary Jeremy Christoffels drafted and submitted the Letter for Review to the NCAA in January 2017. He is now the current Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Assistant Commissioner for Compliance.

“A student-athlete could quite possibly leave the University of Mary with their eligibility used up with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in hand,” stated Christoffels. “What this does is truly provide every student on campus the ability to challenge themselves academically and take advantage of the University of Mary’s innovation. This decision shows a change in times in higher education that cannot be ignored. More and more students are looking ahead to the future and what their financial situation may be, and campuses around the country are taking note.”

Christoffels believes YRC is a game changer on several fronts for athletes: those who wish to take advantage of what University of Mary has to offer by being on campus during the summer semester; and completing traditional undergraduate and graduate degrees in less time and at a lower cost with normal course loads and a full college experience. Based on an independent analysis of YRC, the incremental savings, increased earnings, and reduced student loan balances would result in lifetime financial benefit of over $320,000 with a bachelor’s degree in 2.6 years and over $600,000 with a master’s degree in four years.

“The student-athletes are still required to abide by the Playing and Practice Seasons legislation in bylaw 17 which limits who can work out with University of Mary staff in the summer, but effectively all would have the opportunity to work out on a voluntary basis on their own should they desire; and with the YRC program, they could also live, work, and study there as well as they get bigger, faster, stronger.”

The University of Mary became an active member of NCAA Division II in 2008. Student athletes at Mary compete in 17 women’s and men’s sports as members of the NSIC.

For more information about Year-Round Campus visit www.yearroundcampus.com.

About the University of Mary

The University of Mary continues to be one of the most affordable Catholic universities in America. Founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Mary offers nearly 60 undergraduate, and 14 master’s degrees, and four doctoral programs in Physical Therapy, Nursing Practice, Education and Occupational Therapy. The University of Mary is also home to the new and innovative Year-Round Campus — where students have the option to earn their degree in 2.6 years and master’s in four years. With over 3,200 students, Mary has locations in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Kansas, Arizona, Rome, Italy and Arequipa, Peru as well as vibrant online offerings. For more information, visit www.umary.edu.