Bluefield College is stepping up in athletics.
The private Christian college in Bluefield, Virginia, a charter member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) and a Division II member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), is taking its 15 intercollegiate sports teams to the Mid-South Conference (MSC), a highly respected, championship laden Division I member of the NAIA.
In front of a room full of media, Ram Boosters, coaches, trustees, faculty, staff and friends, during a press conference on campus, Monday, March 7, BC leaders announced the milestone shift that will not only move the college’s sports teams up on the national level to a conference with a history of excellence, but also provide a home for the school’s new football program.
“Joining the Mid-South Conference provides our new football team an immediate schedule of opponents, which would be challenging to line up otherwise,” said BC President David Olive. “But, more importantly, it provides all of our sports teams the opportunity to continue the pursuit of excellence as we move into NAIA Division I competition. The Mid-South is a great conference and is known for its outstanding athletic programs and the reputation of its colleges and universities.”
Bluefield College announced the return of its football program in June of 2010 after nearly 70 years without gridiron competition and following an extensive four-year-long study to determine the feasibility of reviving the sport. Shortly thereafter, Mid-South Conference Commissioner Steve Baker and representatives from MSC member schools visited Bluefield to discuss BC’s interest in joining the Mid-South.
Following the submission of a formal application for admission in August 2010, Mid-South officials returned to Bluefield in February 2011 to evaluate BC athletic facilities and to further assess the school’s merit as a candidate for the conference. As a final step in the application process, Bluefield College leaders offered a presentation to MSC member presidents at an annual business meeting in Frankfort, Kentucky, in March 2011. The result of the nearly yearlong process: unanimous approval for membership for all sports at Bluefield College.
“Bluefield College is going to be an excellent addition to the Mid-South Conference,” said MSC Commissioner Steve Baker. “The mission-match is spot on, and the institution’s commitment to its athletics program through its strategic plan is going to be a big plus for our conference.”
The Mid-South, “where only the best compete,” according to the conference slogan, offers 18 intercollegiate sports — versus 15 in the AAC — including men’s baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis, track and field, and wrestling; women’s basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball; and co-ed cheerleading. In just 16 years of competition in the NAIA, the MSC has claimed 14 national championships.
“This is a great time for Bluefield College and our athletic programs,” said BC Athletic Director Peter Dryer. “It not only provides a strong schedule for our football program, but will bring other nationally recognized sports programs to compete here in Bluefield. The Mid-South has a strong history of excellence in athletics, and we are looking forward to contributing to the quality of the conference.”
Bluefield will move from the eight-team Appalachian Athletic Conference to become the 18th member of the Mid-South Conference, joining Belhaven (MS) University, Bethel (TN) University, Campbellsville (KY) University, Cumberland (TN) University, Faulkner (AL) University, Georgetown (KY) College, Kentucky Christian University, Lindsey Wilson (KY) College, Pikeville (KY) College, Shawnee State (OH) University, Shorter (GA) University, St. Catharine (KY) College, Union (KY) College, University of Rio Grande (OH), University of the Cumberlands (KY), University of Virginia at Wise, and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.
Bluefield College will bring its 15 sports — including men’s baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, and tennis; women’s basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball; and co-ed cheerleading — when it officially begins competition in the Mid-South Conference in the fall of 2012. It will also bring its own championship tradition, which includes seven national tournament appearances in men’s basketball, seven conference championships in men’s golf, three national tournament appearances and a national championship in men’s baseball, and one national championship in men’s soccer over the last 15 years alone.
“Bluefield College is a perfect compliment to our current conference members,” said Baker. “Our presidents are very supportive of Dr. Olive and his vision for the school and the athletic department.”
The jump to the MSC is just one of many recent improvements in a concerted effort by Bluefield College leaders to improve its offerings and opportunities for student-athletes. For example, the college has added two new sports (men’s football and women’s golf) in the past year and six new sports (men’s football, women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s cross country) in the past five years.
“We are grateful for the efforts of Dr. Olive, Peter Dryer and all associated with the BC athletic program to achieve this milestone (moving to the MSC) for the college,” said Dr. Robert Shippey, vice president for academic affairs, on behalf of the faculty. “This as a day in which the entire campus community joins in celebrating, because when one component brings improvement to the college, we all benefit.”