While Sewanee, Berry and the other six universities and colleges in their new NCAA Division III athletic conference come up with a name for their league that officially begins in July 2012, the schools they’re leaving behind surely will take a new name, too.
The seven lameduck members of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference can’t take that label with them, but they and Berry are the true Southern schools — from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. Left in the SCAC will be four Texas institutions and Colorado College. Maybe they can borrow “Texaco” for their conference, with a logo featuring a lone star overlooking Rocky peaks.
Trinity University in San Antonio casts a huge shadow by itself with its athletic program. It has won 144 league titles since beginning SCAC membership in 1989 and has won the President’s Trophy as the top overall program 11 times starting with the 1993-94 school year.
With DePauw in Indiana leaving the SCAC this year and Trinity being left behind in 2012, Sewanee will have the only Tigers in its league for the first time in a long time. And they along with Millsaps (Jackson, Miss.), Rhodes (Memphis), Centre (Danville, Ky.) and Birmingham-Southern should have an easier time in league play in football without those sometimes dominating other Tigers.
Oglethorpe (Atlanta) and Hendrix (Conway, Ark.) are the other SCAC members departing after this school year, and the latter is adding football. That may also be a possibility for Berry, which is midway through its NCAA provisional status after leaving the NAIA.
Sewanee athletic director Mark Webb noted last week that when he took that job in 1995, the SCAC had eight schools and five football-playing members, so the new eight-school venture already is ahead of that. Playing five conference games leaves five nonconference slots every year, giving Sewanee a chance to continue old rivalries with such as Washington and Lee, Hampden-Sydney and Maryville and to add some new opponents.
With Colorado College already having decided to drop football, only Trinity and Austin of the leftover SCAC schools have the fall sport. The move for the eastern members of the SCAC is clearly a logical one from a geographical and financial standpoint, but it leaves the western members hanging.
“This was not an easy decision given our longstanding relationships with some of the Texas schools and more recently Colorado College,” Webb said, “but what may have been a good idea 10 or 12 years ago became much more of a challenge as travel costs intensified and we had so much more missed class time.
“This gives us a good critical mass of schools in a more concise geographical area, and it lets us play some more nonconference competition.”
Some people know that Sewanee was a charter member of the Southeastern Conference. Families of alumni may remember that the Tigers, Centre and Rhodes are longtime rivals that were part of the SCAC’s predecessor — the Collegiate Athletic Conference — when it was formed in 1962. Exactly 50 years later they’ll be part of yet another new league.
Sewanee first faced Rhodes (then Southwestern at Memphis) in football in 1899. The Tigers’ Centre series began in 1910. Millsaps is No. 3 on the Sewanee football foe list, continuously since 1947.
There is no reason to feel sorry for the Texaco teams, as the SCAC already has contacted potential new members.
“Obviously, this news puts Trinity and the remaining members of the SCAC in a difficult situation,” Trinity athletic director Bob King said in a school release the day the breakoff was announced, “but we feel confident that under the leadership of Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry we will pull through this and, eventually, be better than ever.”
Hanberry runs the SCAC office in Suwanee, Ga. We’re guessing that location will change along with the league name.