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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The NCAA's Division II voted by a wide margin Saturday to allow Mexican colleges to apply for membership, expanding its international reach beyond Canada.
The legislation takes effect immediately. Schools must meet all Division II standards, including facilities and staff, before being considered.
No Mexican schools have applied yet, and any that do would be required to complete a three-year provisional period before becoming a full member. Division I and Division III schools will not be affected.
In 2008, Division II agreed to accept Canadian schools. Simon Fraser in Vancouver, British Columbia, became the first full-time member outside the U.S. in 2012-13 and remains the only international NCAA member.
"We're very proud to be the first but being the only is lonely," Simon Fraser President Andrew Petter said, speaking in support of a measure approved a few minutes later by a vote of 253-45.
There were seven abstentions, but nobody spoke against the proposal on the final day of the NCAA's annual convention.
Despite facing passport issues and other challenges, Petter said Simon Fraser has found creative ways to overcome those obstacles and believes schools in Mexico would find similar solutions.
Division II officials hope Mexico brings more than just diversity to the playing fields.
Only five schools in the West field football teams and those schools would like to schedule more games closer to campus. Some, in fact, already have scheduled Mexican opponents and found them to be competitive.
"We believe it would help in the vast Western region and would create a valuable cultural experience for the global world we are preparing our students to live in," said Bill LaForge, president of Delta Sate in Mississippi.
Expansion also could raise the profile of the NCAA's middle division and open doors to additional opportunities.
But Petter's preference would be to have a partner on the international stage.
"Still proud to be the first," he said. "But no longer lonely to be the only international member in the NCAA."
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