Spring Hill College to apply for NCAA membership, join new athletic conference

Tue, 10/02/2012 - 2:00pm

MOBILE, Ala. -- Spring Hill College President Rev. Richard P. Salmi, S.J., announced today that Spring Hill College has accepted an invitation to join the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and intends to apply for NCAA Division II membership in spring 2013.

Spring Hill has been a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) since 1959. The decision to switch national and conference affiliations comes after nearly two years of study and planning concerning the future of the Badger athletic program.

“We have enjoyed our relationship with the NAIA and SSAC (Southern States Athletic Conference)," said Salmi. “The SSAC is an excellent conference, and we have been pleased during our time as a member. However, we feel that strategically the NCAA is a better long-term fit for our goals and aspirations for the college and our athletic department.”

“Over the past year and a half, we have engaged in a comprehensive study of how best to ensure that our athletic program reaches its full potential and enjoys the same level of recognition and success that our academic programs have earned for more than 180 years,” said SHC Director of Athletics Jim Hall. “We believe that being a member of the SIAC and the NCAA is a positive step in making that goal a reality.”

“The NCAA enjoys strong 'brand recognition' nationally and is regarded as being committed to competitive excellence, the welfare of student athletes and the support of its member institutions,” Hall said. “The NCAA also affords its members tremendous access to educational and professional development programs including postgraduate scholarships, athletic internships, conferences, symposiums and programs for women and minorities.”

One of the primary benefits cited in the study for moving to NCAA Division II is the opportunity to connect athletically with some of the best academic institutions in the country, including 26 of 28 Jesuit institutions nationwide. “Spring Hill has always been one of the highest ranked academic schools in the NAIA,” said Hall. “It is important that we continue our academic commitment to excellence as we build a highly regarded athletic program.”

“Spring Hill presently has more than 220 student athletes competing in 15 sports and we believe membership in the NCAA will make us an even more attractive college choice for outstanding student athletes from across the United States who, as studies suggest, are more likely to want to enroll at an NCAA campus,” said Hall.

SIAC commissioner Greg Moore formally communicated the conference’s acceptance of Spring Hill’s application after the SIAC president’s meeting on Aug. 20, 2012. 

“We are pleased about the prospect of Spring Hill College becoming a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference,” Moore said. “Not only is Spring Hill College an institution with strong academics and athletics, but they were also cited by Dr. King for its commitment to racial justice and equality in his 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail.'”

As a result of the SIAC’s invitation, Spring Hill College will submit its NCAA application prior to the Feb. 1, 2013 deadline and begin what it hopes to be a three-year process toward full membership in NCAA Division II. Spring Hill will continue to hold membership in the NAIA and the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) through the 2013-2014 academic year, but will play a full schedule against SIAC opponents beginning in 2014-2015.

Founded in 1913, SIAC membership spans the states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee and is comprised of 13 historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) that compete in 13 sponsored sports. SIAC teams and its athletes are known for being staunch competitors and for excelling on the national level. The conference as a whole has claimed more than 50 team and individual national championships.

“We believe that being a member of the NCAA and the SIAC is in concert with Spring Hill’s academic goals and mission,” Hall said. “It helps the college fulfill its promise of forming leaders engaged in learning, faith, justice and service for life.”

For the latest athletics news, visit www.shcbadgers.com.