Friday, June 3, 2011

The Changing Landscape of the USA South Conference

In case you are not aware, several changes have taken place in the USA South Athletic Conference. In late September, it was announced that Shenandoah University had been accepted as a full time member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). To begin in the fall of 2012, this shift would give the Old Dominion Athletic Conference a total of 14 full time members, but more importantly, would reduce the USA South to 6 full time members. (At the time, Maryville College was an associate member)
This move would place the USA South conference at risk of losing its DIII automatic qualifier status. An article in September of 2010 by Pat Coleman, of, goes into the impact that this move would have on the USA South, and details, prophetically, I might add, possible scenarios that could play out. The article is below:

Conference shuffle drifts south

The announcement today of Shenandoah joining the Old Dominion Athletic Conferencehas the potential to restart the rearrangement of conference affiliations that started with the departure of football schools from the MAC, the creation of the Landmark Conference for all sports and has reached as far north as the Empire 8 and Liberty League.
Shenandoah’s departure, which takes effect with the 2012-13 season, leaves the USA South in a big hole. All of their men’s sports, other than football, face the potential of losing their automatic bid. Just six full-time members of the conference have men’s sports: Averett, Christopher Newport, Ferrum, Greensboro, Methodist and North Carolina Wesleyan. In football, Maryville is an associate member of the USA South, leaving the conference with the minimum seven members required for an automatic bid.
After a two-year grace period, the automatic bid could be lost in 2014-15.
Could this revive the dormant, some would say dead, USAC-Great South merger talks? Absolutely. The USA South’s Maryville is already an associate member of the league in football and could join for all sports, as could Piedmont and LaGrange. Piedmont is the closest school of the southern portion of the GSAC to the USAC footprint.
If the southern flank of the USA South opens up, might Christopher Newport be the next to leave? The Captains would be the next geographic outlier in this group and, in my opinion, are a good fit for the Capital Athletic Conference. They would also bring a football program that could put the CAC on the verge of being a football conference. Stevenson adds football in 2012, while Salisbury, Frostburg and Wesley already have the sport. Five football programs isn’t seven, but it’s in the ballpark and who knows, Pool B might not be so bad a place to be for a while in football.
Plus, remember the women’s programs in the USA South and the Great South vastly outnumber the men’s. They could well spin off and form their own conference which would be eligible for an automatic bid as well. That group could draw from the following schools: Agnes Scott, Mary Baldwin, Meredith, Peace, Salem, Spelman, Wesleyan (Ga.). They might find that type of affiliation more to their liking.
The MAC had to be considered a strong contender to land Shenandoah. The conference already is home to a handful of Shenandoah’s sports: field hockey and men’s and women’s indoor track and track and field. The conference added Stevenson as an affiliate member for football and Shenandoah would have made it 10 in that sport. But the MAC missed out.

As it turns out, Pat's September predictions were all correct. The USA South has recently announced that Lagrange, and Piedmont are joining the USA South, and that Maryville who had been an associate member will become a full time member. All of these moves will be in effect for the 2012-13 school year.
As for CNU leaving the conference, that has not happened yet, but the move suggested in Coleman's article would make sense. I have no inside information, but stay tuned, I would not be surprised.
As for the new schools, Piedmont does not have football, but LaGrange has a very respectable program. They have had a couple of less than stellar seasons, but were 9-2 in 2008. Look for this team to bring plenty of competition to the conference.....Interestingly they too are called the Panthers!

Go Panthers...uh Ferrum that is!

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