Dalton State College

December 9, 2013

Dalton State joins conference just months after membership denied

Dalton State College’s admission into a conference comes four months later than hoped, but still soon enough to serve as a Christmas present for the Roadrunners’ fans.

Four months after not gaining entrance to the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), Dalton State received provisional membership for the 2014-2015 school year. Commissioner Mike Hall made the announcement Monday morning at a meeting in Montgomery, Ala.

Dalton State started athletics again this fall after many years without sports teams. On Aug. 1, Dalton State officially gained membership to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Later that month, on the day Dalton State’s volleyball team played its first match of the season and the first athletic event for the school’s new teams, the SSAC denied membership to Dalton State.

“I think on their initial look they made one decision,” Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh said, “but when they went back and looked at everything again, we ended up getting in on a unanimous 16-0 vote. So, hopefully, it speaks to the quality and future of our athletic department.”

Hall spoke Monday by phone with The Daily Citizen and said Dalton State wasn’t denied membership because of what the college offered, but rather because of a procedural flaw from the conference’s end. He didn’t say exactly what the flaw was.

“First of all, Dalton State is a growing institution,” Hall said.

“They have a very progressive athletic department. We just thought, from a geographic standpoint, they’d be a very good fit.”

The SSAC is a 16-member conference this school year. The members are Auburn University-Montgomery, Belhaven University, Bethel University, Blue Mountain College, Brenau University, Brewton-Parker College, College of Coastal Georgia, Emmanuel College, Faulkner University, Loyola University, Martin Methodist College, University of Mobile, Southern Polytechnic State University, Southern Wesleyan University, Spring Hill College and William Carey University. The conference has schools in Alabama (three), Georgia (five), Louisiana (one), Mississippi (four), Tennessee (two) and South Carolina (one).

Spring Hill College is transitioning from NAIA competition to NCAA Division II status and will play an NCAA Division II schedule in 2014-2015.

Provisional status means Dalton State must expand its sports catalog to meet conference requirements. Hall said the conference requires six “core sports,” which include team sports such as basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball.

“We’re giving them some flexibility,” Hall said. “They are working on adding sports like men’s and women’s soccer, women’s basketball and other sports in the next couple of years.”

Dalton State currently has teams in men’s basketball; men’s and women’s cross country, golf and tennis; women’s volleyball; and competitive cheerleading. According to NAIA.org, the SSAC’s sports include men’s baseball; men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, golf, track and field, soccer and tennis; and women’s softball and volleyball.

Among the positives of conference affiliation are reducing travel and associated costs from playing an independent schedule and establishing conference rivalries. Another positive is — after provisional status next school year — Dalton State will eventually compete for SSAC championships and NAIA national titles. This season, Dalton State is competing in the Association of Independent Institutions conference. The Roadrunners’ eligibility for conference or national titles is uncertain, Waugh said, because Dalton State is a first-year program.

“From a cost standpoint, it’s a cost-saver to be in the Southern States Athletic Conference,” he said.

Since the first vote for Dalton State’s SSAC membership, the school has fared quite well in sports, specifically men’s basketball.

The Roadrunners are 11-1 as the halfway point of the season nears and the team has won all five of its games against current SSAC programs (Auburn University-Montgomery, Belhaven University, Southern Polytechnic State University, Southern Wesleyan University and Spring Hill College). Dalton State’s volleyball program finished its inaugural season 10-14 and men’s and women’s cross country teams completed their first seasons.

Waugh said he doesn’t believe the success of men’s basketball solely pushed Dalton State to membership. Rather, he believes the success of all programs helped the cause.

“If you take the performance of our other sports — our men’s cross country teams would be close to the top (of the conference), our volleyball team would be in the middle, our women’s cross country team would be close to the top and our golf teams would be competitive, along with our men’s basketball team being successful against Southern States teams — all of that shows our athletic programs will be strong,” he said.

One thing Waugh does believe aided the Roadrunners is fan support. The basketball team, which plays home games in the trade center, saw 720 season tickets sold to fans before the season started.

Waugh previously admired that number for the size of Dalton State’s home venue, which he estimated can fit around 1,920 people for a game.

“I would say the support we’ve had was probably a major factor,” Waugh said. “Every team that has come in to play us, at least in basketball, says that we’ve got the best atmosphere in the NAIA.”

Hall also acknowledged a admirable Dalton State fan base, strong home venue and once again praised the school’s “progressive” approach to marketing of athletics.

“I know they are committed,” he said. “I think they have an outstanding facility for their home games. “They aren’t sitting on their hands. They are getting out there, and I think the Dalton community has embraced them.”

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