By Devin Golden
Dalton State College must revert to “Plan B” in its search for a conference home for its relaunched athletics program.
Derek Waugh, the school’s athletic director, used that phrase when talking about the next course of action for Dalton State, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) member. The school was denied membership to the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) on Tuesday.
The Roadrunners are participating as a non-conference member of the NAIA this year but hope to have a conference home for 2014-15. The school is taking part in varsity intercollegiate athletics for the first time in three decades, having previously had men’s basketball, golf and tennis when the school was known as Dalton Junior College.
“We have a couple options from here,” Waugh said. “We can seek a new league. Another option is to stay independent like Georgia Gwinnett College and join some independent postseason championships.”
One reason the SSAC was the school’s first choice is that it includes several schools in reasonable proximity to Dalton State, such as Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and Brenau University in Gainesville.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, but we’ll continue to look at other options,” Waugh said. “We thought we would get in, but the SSAC is content with its membership.”
One conference Waugh mentioned as an option in prior interviews is the Appalachian Athletic Conference. That conference also includes schools that could be natural geographic rivals for the Roadrunners, such as Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., and Reinhardt University in Waleska.
“We’re looking at two or three options as far as a league to join,” Waugh said.
Last week, Dalton State received approval to apply for SSAC membership from the Georgia Board of Regents, which oversees all colleges within the University System of Georgia. But the SSAC’s member schools’ presidents voted down the Roadrunners. Waugh did not know the vote tally.
“The SSAC absorbed what was left of the Transouth Athletic Conference, which gave them four new members,” Waugh said. “They also had two of their members not get approval to join the NCAA Division II, so they aren’t leaving the conference. Basically, they couldn’t expand anymore.”
One of the schools denied NCAA membership was Southern Wesleyan University, which hosted Dalton State’s women’s volleyball team on Tuesday. It was the first competition in DSC’s new era for sports.
In addition to volleyball, Dalton State will participate in men’s basketball, co-ed competition cheerleading, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s tennis this school year. Other sports are expected to be added over the next few years.