It’s true — Shenandoah’s move to the ODAC for 2012-13 doesn’t immediately put the USA South’s automatic bid to the football playoffs in jeopardy. However, there are surely more moves to come.
Even with no more changes, the USAC will have seven football-playing members in 2012, the minimum required to maintain an automatic bid, because Maryville is an associate member of the league. However, the departure of Shenandoah from the league means there are just six teams remaining in the other men’s sports in the conference: Averett, Christopher Newport, Ferrum, Greensboro, Methodist and North Carolina Wesleyan. After a two-year waiting period, the conference would lose its automatic bid in baseball, men’s basketball and other sports in 2014-15, unless additions are made.
Now, I went into this in more detail on the D3hoops.com Daily Dose, but I’ll whittle it down to bullet points for the football-focused discussion.
- The USA South needs more men’s members.
- The nearest available schools are from the Great South, which does not sponsor football.
- Adding those schools greatly reshapes the footprint of the conference.
- That would make Christopher Newport an extreme geographic outlier in the northeast corner of the league.
- CNU could then decide to leave for reasons of travel costs, same as Shenandoah did.
- Therefore, change might be even more urgent.
Here’s a couple of things that could happen. The USA South could choose to bring in Huntingdon and LaGrange as associate members in football as well, bringing the league to nine schools, although the conference really needs at least one full member with men. (The league has three women’s-only schools.) Piedmont is the closest school of the Great South to USAC country, but doesn’t have football. Huntingdon is a few hours further away. A full USAC-GSAC merger is possible but fairly large for women’s sports and perhaps unwieldy for men’s sports, although a divisional setup is possible as two other non-football schools in Georgia work their way into the GSAC.
Bottom line: Huntingdon and LaGrange could still be out in the cold. But if Christopher Newport leaves for all sports and finds football affiliate membership somewhere besides the USA South, the conference will need them.