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College of the Ozarks Lady Cats in 2020.

The College of the Ozarks announced on Friday night it would be leaving the NAIA at the end of the 2020-21 school year and pulled its men’s basketball team from the set bracket of the NAIA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

C of O said in a release it will continue its relationship with the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). The release goes on to say “this association includes faith-based colleges and offers student athletes the opportunity to participate in championship play.”

“We are grateful for the many years of athletic play we have enjoyed with the NAIA, particularly the 20 or so years we were able to host the Men’s Division II Basketball National Championship,” said Dr. Eric Bolger, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College.

Women’s basketball player Jordan Wersinger released a statement on her personal Twitter account saying, “We are saddened by this decision and hope through support we can make change.”

Three other women’s basketball players were tagged in the original posts, while other C of O athletes have since retweeted the statement from March 12.

“This year marked College of the Ozarks’ women’s basketball program’s 27th appearance in the NAIA National Tournament,” she wrote. “Unfortunately today, we received word that we will no longer be competing in the NAIA due to a decision made by the president of College of the Ozarks.

“This decision not only affects us, but all sports across campus. The NAIA program has allowed us to compete at a high level and receive national recognition. We are saddened by the decision and hope through support we can make a change.”

The Tri-Lakes news reached out to College of the Ozarks and the NAIA for comment and did not receive a response in time for publication.

C of O has been closed to visitors since the beginning of the pandemic, with athletic competition not resuming until earlier this year.

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