Recently approved by the school’s Board of Trustees, the move brings several benefits, according to President Dan McAlexander.
“We will be joining a prestigious conference with a track record of success in national tournaments,” he said. “Our student-athletes now will have more opportunities to achieve excellence through post-season play, especially our men’s teams, who will be able to compete for automatic bids to their respective NCAA Division III national play-offs.”
LaGrange women’s teams will continue to vie for automatic bids, as they currently do in the Great South Athletic Conference, he said. The college is a founding member of the GSAC and will honor its commitments there through the 2011-12 academic year.
Panther athletic teams in almost all sports have competed against current USA South members. The college joined the conference as a women’s lacrosse-only member in 2009.
The USA South sponsors championships in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s golf and women’s lacrosse, for a total of 14 sports. In swimming, LaGrange teams will continue to compete in the Appalachian Swimming and Diving Conference.
New Athletic Director Jennifer Claybrook said joining the USA South is a win-win situation.
“The conference move will allow us to establish and maintain long-term rivalries,” she said. “And it will give our team sports two opportunities to receive a bid to the NCAA III national playoffs – an at-large bid and a conference bid.”
Currently competing as an independent, the Panther football team will enjoy other benefits in the new conference.
“This will provide more of our student-athletes with the opportunity to compete for a number of all-conference awards, from player-of-the-week to all-conference to academic-all-conference,” Claybrook said. “Conference honors will make our players more competitive for national recognition.”
She said planning the season also will be easier.
“Our men’s sports won’t have to worry about scheduling so many out-of-conference games, which is extremely challenging.”
One of the oldest NCAA Division III conferences in the country, the USA South is presently made up of 10 institutions: Averett University, Va.; Christopher Newport University, Va.; Ferrum (Va.) College; Greensboro (N.C.) College; Mary Baldwin College, Va.; Meredith College, N.C.; Methodist University, N.C.; North Carolina Wesleyan College; Peace College, N.C.; and Shenandoah University, Va. Affiliate members include Agnes Scott College, Ga., and LaGrange College in women’s lacrosse only and Maryville (Tenn.) College in football only. Georgia’s Piedmont College will be joining USA South in the 2012-13 academic year; Shenandoah University is scheduled to join the Old Dominion Athletic Conference beginning with the 2011-12 year.
“We proudly welcome LaGrange College to our membership,” said USA South Commissioner Rita Wiggs. “They exemplify the pillars of the Division III and USA South philosophy with their strong academic profile and commitment to athletics as an integral part of the student-athlete’s comprehensive collegiate experience.
“LaGrange College will enhance and strengthen the competitiveness in our regular season and championships with its broad-based programs. We look forward to the future with LaGrange as a full partner in athletic competition, academic pursuits and student-athlete development.”
USA South was formed in 1963 as the Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and was one of the first conferences accepted into NCAA Division III. In July 2003, Dixie formally changed its name to USA South, and its first championships were awarded in the fall of 2003.
“It is an exciting day as the USA South Athletic Conference welcomes LaGrange College as our newest member,” said Dr. Pamela Fox, Chair of the USA South Presidents Council. “As the oldest private college in the state of Georgia, LaGrange College has a long and proud academic and athletic tradition as a liberal arts institution that makes it a good and comparable partner in our conference. Their membership in the conference will benefit all of us who value a well-rounded Division III collegiate experience for our student-athletes.
“We look forward to the future and years of competition and collaboration with our administrators, coaches and student-athletes.”