Samford University will become a member of the Southern Conference July 1, 2008, University President Andrew Westmoreland and Director of Athletics Bob Roller announced Thursday. The invitation was accepted by Samford following a unanimous vote by the Southern Conference presidents.
"The invitation from the Southern Conference comes at a unique point in Samford's history," Westmoreland said. "Finding the right balance of academics and athletics is a strategic planning priority for Samford, and we share other peer relationships with Southern Conference member institutions that make the athletics relationship right for us at this time."
Samford will become the 12th member of the Southern Conference, joining Appalachian State, College of Charleston, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Davidson, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, UNC Greensboro, Western Carolina and Wofford. The conference has headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., and sponsors championships in 19 sports.
"This day speaks volumes about the progression of Samford athletics," Roller said. "It also points to the dedication and hard work of many coaches and student-athletes who have worked tirelessly to put us in this position. Competing in the Southern Conference in intercollegiate athletics is a challenge – plain and simple. I have not met one member of our program who does not welcome this challenge. We look forward to working with Commissioner (John) Iamarino and staff in the coming days."
Samford will spend the 2007-08 school year in the Ohio Valley Conference. The season will be Samford's fifth in the league. In its time in the OVC, Samford has won 11 team conference titles, had nine coaches named league Coach of the Year and had eight student-athletes named Player of the Year or Athlete of the Year.
"This has not been an easy decision for Samford University," Westmoreland said. "We are grateful for the good relationships we have enjoyed with our fellow OVC institutions. The decision to join the OVC was the right one for Samford at that time. It is important for us to focus on the long-term academic and athletics priorities that will meet the goals that our trustees, alumni, faculty and students expect for Samford."
"This move is not without emotion as we leave very good friends in the OVC," Roller said. "Jon Steinbrecher and his staff have handled this process with tremendous class and integrity."
The Southern Conference is the fifth-oldest Division I conference in the country and has been in existence for 86 years. Many current Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference institutions are former members of the Southern Conference. The league boasts the most NCAA Division I Championship Subdivision football national championships with seven, including the last two, won by Appalachian State.
"We are delighted that Samford University will become the 12th member of the SoCon," said Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino. "Samford's institutional profile is one that is very consistent with those of our current members – strong academics, an unwavering commitment to the welfare and graduation of the student-athlete, combined with a burning desire to operate a successful athletics program within the mission of the institution."
"The addition of Samford will benefit the SoCon in many ways," Iamarino said. "It will strengthen our efforts in both football and basketball scheduling. It provides a road-swing partner for Chattanooga on the western flank of the conference. It opens up a significant southern market (Birmingham) to SoCon exposure. Most importantly, it gives us another institution committed to operating a good competitive program while not sacrificing its academic integrity in any manner. Simply put, Samford is going to make the Southern Conference a better league."
A media conference about Samford's move to the Southern Conference will be scheduled for a later date.
• 11 team titles in nearly four seasons in Ohio Valley Conference
• Nine Coaches of the Year in OVC
• Eight student-athletes named Player or Athlete of the Year in OVC
• 2004 Women's All-Sports Championship
• Four-straight women's soccer championships, including making the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2005
• In 2006, pitcher Josh Ehmke became the first Samford baseball player to be named Honorable Mention All-American by Collegiate Baseball. Shortstop Michael Marseco was named Freshman All-American by the same publication
• In the last four seasons, had four football players named to All-America teams
• In 2005-06, J. Robert Merritt became the first men's basketball player to be named Honorable Mention All-American
• In two of the last three seasons, had football players move on to become part of NFL franchises (Cortland Finnegan, Titans; and Efrem Hill, Carolina Panthers).
• Senior Lauren Blankenship named All-American in both cross country and track.
What others are saying . . .
"The Southern Conference has a long tradition of athletic and academic excellence. At Samford, we take pride in having a similar tradition. Joining the Southern Conference will challenge us to pursue greater excellence both on and off the field." – Dr. Chris Metress, faculty athletics representative, Samford University
"Samford University is a distinguished institution with high academic standards and a tradition of athletic competition that will add to the proud history of the Southern Conference." – Dr. Roger Brown, chancellor, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
"The academic reputation of Samford will further enhance the reputation of the Southern Conference as one that is exemplary in its recognition of priorities beyond the arena and the playing field." – Dr. Benjamin Dunlap, president, Wofford College
"Samford will be a good addition to the quality institutions currently in our conference, and will expand the footprint of our conference into a new state." – Dr. Kenneth Peacock, chancellor, Appalachian State University
"During our campus visit and the many discussions we have conducted, I have been greatly impressed with the new president at Samford, Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, with athletic director Bob Roller, his staff and his head coaches. They have expressed their enthusiasm and desire to meet the challenge of joining a new conference, and we look forward to working with them." – John Iamarino, Southern Conference commissioner
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