Editorial: UNO athletics, almost sent to athletic oblivion twice, plays in NCAA tournament Tuesday

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NEW ORLEANS – It was one of the silliest meetings I ever attended.

In December of 2009, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved the University of New Orleans’ plan to downgrade in athletics from Division I to Division III, non-scholarship. Several of the so-called “experts” at the school spoke before the board and backed then Chancellor Tim Ryan’s decision to move down.

Thankfully, that move never occurred. The University of New Orleans stayed Division I.

Then in the spring of 2011, then director of athletics Amy Champion led an ill-fated plan to move the school down to Division II athletics.

In a statement from April of 2011, Champion heralded the move to Division II.

“The University Administration and LSU System have worked with our athletic department staff in order to reach this point and we are grateful for their assistance.”

But, once again, UNO was saved from athletic demise. The school left the LSU system and moved to the Louisiana system, with like-minded institutions.

For now, UNO is where it belongs, in the Southland Conference.

And the University of New Orleans deserves to be a Division I athletic institution. I never believed otherwise, especially when schools in the Southland Conference, not only play Division I college basketball, but in the Football Championship Subdivision.

New Orleans is a Division I city. It should be playing basketball, its marquee sport, on the highest level.

And, now, more than seven years after nearly being sent into athletic oblivion, the basketball team, led by head coach Mark Slessinger, will play in the NCAA tournament.

It is a remarkable story.

And, Tuesday night on national TV, on the biggest platform in college basketball, the University of New Orleans will get millions in free advertising.

And, perhaps, an NCAA tournament victory.