Dalton State College’s return to men’s basketball includes a healthy dose of games that will be played in the Carpet Capital.
The Roadrunners have finalized a 30-game schedule for the 2013-2014 season, coach Tony Ingle said in a Thursday press release from the school’s athletic department, and it includes 16 dates on the team’s home court at the trade center in Dalton.
“I’m proud that we were able to pull that off,” Ingle said in reference to getting more than half of the games at home. “The greatest distance to travel are for the first two games of the season.”
The team, which will be a non-conference member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) this season, begins play Oct. 30 with a road game in Mobile, Ala., versus Spring Hill College, the former school of assistant coach John Redman and transfer point guard Ricky Sears. The Roadrunners continue with two more road games — Nov. 1 at Belhaven University (Jackson, Miss.) and Nov. 5 at Southern Wesleyan University (Central, S.C.) — before hosting Hiwassee College (Madisonville, Tenn.) on Nov. 7.
The Roadrunners will travel for the Tennessee Wesleyan Classic and play Bryan College (Dayton, Tenn.) Nov. 8 and Tennessee Wesleyan (Athens, Tenn.) Nov. 9.
The team will host two four-team, two-day classics — the Roadrunner Basketball Club Classic on Nov. 15-16 and the Carpet City Christmas Classic on Dec. 20-21. Morris College (Sumter, S.C.), Cumberland University (Lebanon, Tenn.) and Voorhees College (Denmark, S.C.) will come to the November event, and the Roadrunners will play Morris and Voorhees.
Concordia College (Sel-ma, Ala.), Cumberland and Belhaven will come for the Christmas event, and Dalton State will play Concordia and Belhaven.
The team also will play two exhibition games versus Division I programs — Nov. 22 at Jacksonville State (Jacksonville, Ala.) and Dec. 30 at Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, Tenn.) — but neither game will count toward Dalton State’s record.
“Obviously those games are good for the fans,” Ingle said. “The players like competing in them, but it’s just another way to help us prepare the team for what is really important. Those are the teams in our league and our level of competition. To other people it is a big thing because you get to see Dalton State College come across the ticker on ESPN when we play those two games.”
The regular season concludes Feb. 25 at home versus Chattanooga’s Tennessee Temple University. Athletic director Derek Waugh said the school is not eligible for NAIA postseason play.
Other home games are: Atlanta’s Carver College (Nov. 13), Auburn University at Montgomery (Nov. 26), Marietta’s Southern Poly-technic State University (Dec. 2), Southern Wesleyan (Dec. 17), Waleska’s Reinhardt Univer-sity (Jan. 2), Faulkner Univer-sity (Montgomery, Ala., Jan. 4), Spring Hill (Jan. 6), Virginia Intermont College (Bristol, Va., Jan. 13), Marietta’s Life University (Jan. 29) and Allen University (Columbia, S.C., Feb. 1).
“I think out of all the things I was worried about in starting a men’s basketball program from scratch, my No. 1 concern was having a strong home schedule,” Waugh told The Daily Citizen. “To have those numbers is amazing. I was hopeful we could get some Division I opponents on the road, and we accomplished that as well. ... If you had told me last July we’d have that many home games and two Division I road games for the first season, I’d have thrown a party.”
Twenty-three of the games are against NAIA programs. Three — Carver, Hiwassee and Tennessee Temple — are members of the National Christian College Athletic Association. Concordia is part of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
The school’s athletic program officially became a member of the NAIA Aug. 1, but won’t have conference affiliation for at least another year. Waugh previously said the conference Dalton State is most likely to join is either the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) or the Appalachian Athletic Confer-ence (AAC).
The Roadrunners will play six SSAC teams twice this season — Auburn-Mont-gomery, Belhaven, Faulkner, Southern Polytechnic, Southern Wes-leyan and Spring Hill, al-though Spring Hill is beginning a three-year process to NCAA Division II membership and won’t be a SSAC member after 2013-2014. Dalton State also plays the SSAC’s Coastal College of Georgia once. The Roadrun-ners will play three AAC teams — Bryan, Reinhardt and Virginia Intermont — with Reinhardt the only one scheduled multiple times.
That equals 17 games.
“Finalizing a schedule is very difficult when you’re not in a conference,” Ingle said. “You don’t have 16 to 20 built-in ballgames.”