EMORY, Va. (WFXR) – Emory & Henry College has announced that it plans to join the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) in all of its NCAA-sanctioned sports. If approved for the move from Division III to Division II, the Wasps would earn provisional status in the fall of 2021 with plans to play a full conference schedule for the 2022-23 season.
The addition of Emory & Henry will increase the number of SAC members to 14 institutions. The SAC currently consists of teams from South Carolina (Anderson, Coker, Newberry, Limestone), North Carolina (Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne, Mars Hill, Queens University of Charlotte, Wingate), Tennessee (Carson-Newman, Lincoln Memorial, Tusculum), and Virginia (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise).
RELATED – South Atlantic Conference Release
“We are very excited to welcome Emory & Henry to the SAC,” said SAC Commissioner Patrick Britz. “The overall mission and focus of the college aligns perfectly with the SAC and the institution is a great fit geographically, as well. This addition also strengthens and enhances the SAC and allows us to continue our vision to be a premier NCAA Division II conference both regionally and nationally.”
“Our alumni and friends are familiar with our SAC colleagues, and the proximity of opposing schools provides opportunities that more current students and College supporters will be able to travel to road competitions,” said Anne Crutchfield, Director of Athletics at Emory & Henry. “Joining the SAC will create some true rivalries that should get our student-athletes and our fans excited.”
The next step in the potential move to Division II is completing the formal application to the NCAA that is due by February 1, 2021. The NCAA Membership Committee will meet in mid-July to vote on the application. If accepted, Emory & Henry will begin the first of three provisional years in August of 2021. If all benchmarks are met, the College would be eligible for full membership in August of 2024.
“This is an exciting time for Emory & Henry Athletics, the College as a whole and sports fans across the region,” said Dr. John W. Wells, Emory & Henry College President. “The move to Division II will help expand our fan base and bring much-needed visibility for this wonderful institution. We’re determined to be a leader in higher education for Middle Appalachia, and our move into the South Atlantic Conference and the ranks of Division II athletics is a powerful way to position us as a place of connections. We look forward to growing the rivalries, relationships within the SAC and welcoming new guests to our Emory campus.”
A move to the SAC will create drastically shorter travel distances for road competitions that translates into less time that student-athletes will miss in the classroom. In the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, the closest conference road competition is Roanoke College, which is one hour and 45 minutes from the Emory campus, with the most distant being Virginia Wesleyan University at nearly six hours. In the SAC, the Wasps will have to travel just over an hour to UVA-Wise, with Coker University being the furthest at four hours and 30 minutes.
“We have been fortunate to belong to one of the top Division III conferences in the country with the ODAC as a charter member since 1975, and I think this move to the SAC will continue that high standard as the league is known for great competition on a national level,” added Crutchfield. “I think we will see greater opportunities in our future to compete for national championships.”
The South Athletic Conference currently offers football, baseball, softball, field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s wrestling, and men’s and women’s basketball, lacrosse, soccer, golf, tennis, cross country, and indoor and outdoor track & field. Field hockey and men’s wrestling are technically part of the ‘South Atlantic Conference Carolinas,’ a joint sponsorship venture between the SAC and Conference Carolinas. Emory & Henry added both men’s and women’s wrestling in the fall of 2020.
“We are thrilled to have Emory & Henry join the South Atlantic Conference as our 14th member,” said Dr. Maurice Scherrens, Chair of the SAC President’s Council and President of Newberry College. “All of us within the SAC are extremely excited to have another fine institution from the state of Virginia join our ranks. Like so many of our current members, Emory & Henry adds to the strong history of academic and athletic success to our conference, and we look forward to the future with them as a member.”
Logistics of Emory & Henry’s integration into the SAC, including the possibility of divisional play, will be vetted by the conference’s leadership groups in May 2021.
Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry College will continue to compete in the Intercollegiate Dressage Association and the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association.
The SAC move will reunite Emory & Henry with several former members of the Smoky Mountain Athletic Conference (SMAC) in which the Wasps helped charter in 1927. Current SAC members Tusculum, Lincoln Memorial, and Carson-Newman also participated in the SMAC.
“The move to Division II is another critical step in positioning Emory & Henry as the flagship higher education institution of Middle Appalachia for scholars and athletes,” added Wells. “I think the transition will help diversity our campus in many aspects according to our strategic plan and I look forward to Emory & Henry’s growth and presence beyond Southwest Virginia. This potential opportunity will bring new students and guests to our community and bring greater name recognition to new markets with more robust and diverse populations.”
The South Atlantic Conference is in its 45th year of athletic tradition and excellence. The SAC was founded in 1975, solely as a football conference and became a multi-sport conference in 1989.
PROJECTED TIMELINE OF EMORY & HENRY’S REALIGNMENT
FROM NCAA DIVISION III TO NCAA DIVISION II
November 2020 – Approval from E&H Board of Trustees to pursue membership in NCAA Division II — COMPLETED
November 2020 – Invitation received from the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) to become a member — COMPLETED
January 2021 – Submit formal application to the NCAA for realignment to NCAA Division II
July 2021 – Expected decision from the NCAA regarding application for realignment
August 2021* – Start of first NCAA Division II provisional year
August 2022* – Start of second NCAA Division II provisional year (anticipated full SAC schedule)
August 2023* – Start of final NCAA Division II provisional year
August 2024* – Full NCAA Division II membership and eligibility for postseason play