Bluefield College Heading Back to AAC
It’s Homecoming at Bluefield College, but the BC family is not celebrating the return of former students to campus, but instead the return of the college’s intercollegiate athletic teams to a friendly and familiar place -- the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC).
March 3, 2014
President David Olive
AD Peter Dryer
After two competitive years in a conference that has won 16 national championships in just 19 years of existence, Bluefield College will bid farewell to the Mid-South Conference (MSC), a Division I member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and rejoin the NAIA’s AAC, a conference Bluefield helped establish and spent nearly two decades a part of during the 1990s and early 2000s.
“We are appreciative the AAC has approved our application to return to the conference this fall,” said BC President David Olive. “While our experiences in the Mid-South have been positive, the AAC is a great fit for our teams and feels like being home.”
Bluefield College left the Appalachian Athletic Conference and joined the Mid-South in the fall of 2012. With the AAC being a non-football conference, BC was searching for a home for its brand new intercollegiate football program, back on campus for the first time since 1941.
In addition to a conference home for football and a history of national championships, the Mid-South offered BC the potential for strong regional rivalries with the likes of the University of Virginia-Wise (Wise, VA), West Virginia Tech (Montgomery, WV), the University of Pikeville (Pikeville, KY), and the University of RioGrande (Rio Grande, OH). Unfortunately, that landscape has changed.
“When we joined the Mid-South, West Virginia Tech and UVA-Wise were among our closest competitors. They’re gone now,” said BC Athletics Director Peter Dryer, “and Rio Grande, Cumberland and Georgetown are likely to follow. The conference just looks a lot different from when we started.”
UVA-Wise left the Mid-South to join the Mountain East Athletic Conference. West Virginia Tech left to become anNAIA independent. Rio has announced its plan to depart the MSC for the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC), while Cumberland and Georgetownhave announced their intentions to move to Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“We have enjoyed our time in the Mid-South Conference and are grateful to have had the opportunity to compete with the schools there,” said Dryer, “but our future, however, is in the AAC, and we are excited to be back.”
So, back to the Appalachian Athletic Conference goes Bluefield, beginning with the fall2014 seasons -- a conference where the Rams and Lady Rams won six consecutive conference championships in men’s golf (1997-2002), claimed six conference championships in 11 years in men’s basketball (1999-2009), notched a perfect 18-0 conference record in men’s basketball (2009), won a conference championship in men’s baseball (1997), earned two conference runner-up titles in women’s volleyball (1997-1998), and received a host of individual All-Conference and Player of the Year awards.
“We obviously have a history with the AAC,” said Dryer, “which is full of schools similar to Bluefield College and with similar missions. The stability of this conference is very appealing. It’s growing, the competition is great in all sports, and the opportunity to continue fulfilling our mission through athletics in the AAC is very encouraging.”
In fact, BC was a charter member of the Tennessee-Virginia Athletic Conference (TVAC, formerly the Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference) in the early 1990s. The TVAC became the Appalachian Athletic Conference when Montreat (NC) College, Alice Lloyd (KY) College and Union (KY) College joined in 2001.
When Bluefield College rejoins this fall, the AAC will be comprised of 13 members, including BC, Bryan (TN) College, Columbia (SC) College, Milligan (TN) College, Montreat (NC) College, Point (GA) University, Reinhardt (GA) University, the Savannah School of Art and Design-Atlanta (GA), St. Andrews (NC) University, Tennessee Wesleyan College, Truett-McConnell (GA) College, Union (KY) College, and Virginia Intermont College.
“The AAC is happy to welcome Bluefield College back to our league,” said John Sullivan, AAC Commissioner. “Bluefield had been a member for many years, and we’re glad to have them back in our conference. They bring a full array of competitive sports and are well known to our members. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.”
The AAC offers intercollegiate competition in 15 sports, including men’s baseball, basketball, cross-country, golf, soccer, tennis, and track and field, and women’s basketball, cross-country, golf, soccer, softball, track and field, tennis, and volleyball.
Bluefield College will bring 12 sports into the AAC, including men’s baseball, basketball, cross-country, golf, soccer and tennis, and women’s basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. Rams football will remain a member of the Mid-South Conference, since single sport membership -- not available at the time BC joined the MSC in 2012 -- is now offered by the league. The college will also explore other options for football in the future.
“There is a potential for football in the AAC in the future, and that’s attractive to us,” said Dryer. “We’re certainly open to the idea of bringing football and even men’s volleyball (spring 2015) into the AAC, should the conference decide to add those sports. We think it would be a great opportunity for success.”