Dalton State College athletic director Derek Waugh always had a specific home in mind for the Roadrunners.
On Tuesday, he learned they would be welcome there.
The Roadrunners have been approved as one of two new active member schools for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). It is the first organizational affiliation of any type for the school’s reinstituted athletic program and will help Dalton State as it seeks a conference home. Dalton State’s NAIA membership takes effect Aug. 1, according to an NAIA release.
“We are proud to be a part of the NAIA and all that it stands for,” Dalton State President John Schwenn said in a release from the school. “Being a part of this organization is a great avenue for our intercollegiate athletic programs to function at a high but cost-efficient level.”
Waugh said gaining NAIA membership wasn’t automatic simply because the school wanted it. He believes between eight and 12 schools applied, but just two received active membership — Presentation College of Aberdeen, S.D., returns to the NAIA from the NCAA’s Division III, joining the Roadrunners — while the University of Antelope Valley (Calif.) will become an associate member.
Applications were due Oct. 1, 2012, and NAIA representatives visited Dalton State in February.
“I don’t want to say that we busted our butts 24/7 to get in, but we worked hard,” Waugh said. “With what I knew about how our program was running, I was confident we’d get in. After they had our campus visit, I was real comfortable we’d get in.”
Voting on Dalton State’s membership took place Monday, Waugh said, but it did not become an official act of business until the NAIA’s annual meeting adjourned Tuesday afternoon at the NAIA National Convention in Kansas City, Mo., where the organization’s main offices are located.
“The NAIA is pleased to accept Dalton State College as a new active member,” Jim Carr, president and CEO of the NAIA, said in Dalton State’s press release. “We welcome the Roadrunners of Dalton State, and we look forward to working together. Dalton State identifies with the mission of the NAIA and is committed to the development of student-athletes through character-driven athletics.”
Hired in February 2012, Waugh took over an athletics program that had been shut down for decades before the school announced in summer 2011 that it would return to competition. For Waugh, much of his first year on the job involved hiring coaches who have since signed recruits for the different sports set to begin in 2013-2014 — men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country, golf and tennis.
Dalton State wasn’t able to apply for NAIA membership last year — and Waugh said the school’s plan was to gain membership in 2013 anyway — but Waugh did pitch the Roadrunners for conference affiliation last summer. He said the school did not yet have enough “core sports” — meaning team-oriented sports like basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball — to get approved for conference membership.
“We were submitting applications to conferences before even being in the NAIA,” said Waugh, who was the assistant athletic director for almost one year at Stetson University, an NCAA Division I school in DeLand, Fla., before coming to Dalton State.
The NAIA, which was formed in 1940, has more than 200 schools in 23 different conferences. Waugh said he wants Dalton State in either the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) or Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), starting with the 2014-2015 school year. In order to do that, the school must apply and be approved for membership this summer.
For the 2013-2014 seasons, the Roadrunners will compete as an independent program within the NAIA.
“We will spend our first season in the Association of Independent Institutions,” he said. “We should know something this summer about what league we will join, but that will not be until the 2014-2015 season.”
Waugh said schedules for fall and winter sports will be announced soon.
“We’ll be playing teams from both (the SSAC and the AAC), as well as others from the Southeast,” Waugh said.