December 13, 2011

UAA teams splitting into conferences

Case Western Reserve was the last UAA team to receive a playoff bid, after it went 10-0 in 2009.
Case athletics photo

The four football-playing members of the University Athletic Association have been accepted as affiliate members of other conferences and will have access to automatic bids in future seasons.

Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve will join the Presidents' Athletic Conference as affiliate members in football starting with the 2014 season, while Chicago and Washington U. will join the recently formed Southern Athletic Association starting in the fall of 2015.

The UAA has just four teams playing a conference football schedule, not enough to receive an automatic bid. The conference is eligible for Pool B bids but has not had a team in the playoffs since 2009.

As a result of the cooperative efforts of the three conferences the four UAA schools will continue to play each other once they begin their affiliate memberships. Carnegie Mellon, Case, Chicago, and Washington will continue as full members of the University Athletic Association in their other sports.

“We have been working hard for several years to address the challenges of maintaining a consistent, reliable football schedule against institutions with similar academic and athletic standards and program philosophies given that we have four football-playing members,” said UAA executive secretary Dick Rasmussen. “The affiliation of our members with the PAC and SAA is a win-win for everyone, especially our student-athletes. These affiliations will provide our institutions and our student-athletes the kind of consistent and challenging football schedule we have been seeking.”

"On behalf of the entire conference, I would like to welcome Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve football back home to the PAC," said Joe Onderko, PAC Executive Director. "Head coaches Rich Lackner at CMU and Greg Debeljak at Case, along with their respective coaching staffs, have each built quality Division III football programs that are widely respected and should instantly raise the level of competition in the PAC to new heights. In addition, both programs share the PAC's commitment to the highest level of student-athlete academic success and development."

The PAC will be playing an unbalanced schedule at that time, with eight conference games and two non-conference games. Case and Carnegie Mellon will be playing the same 10 teams every season, the eight PAC games, Chicago and Wash U.

Debeljak welcomed the opportunity to compete for an automatic bid. "Having just gone through a 9-1 season and not making the playoffs I know our kids were a little disappointed. Competing for an automatic bid is certainly a possibility as we go forward."

“Washington University is honored to affiliate its football program, effective with the 2015 season, with the newly formed Southern Athletic Association,” said Wash U. athletic director John Schael. “We have a history with several SAA member institutions dating back to 1962 when the Bears were a member of the former College Athletic Conference. It will be nice to reconnect.”

The SAA teams announced they were breaking away from the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference this summer, due in part to the travel involved in such a widely spread conference. However, the breakaway schools do not have enough football teams to receive an automatic bid as currently configured. The remaining SCAC schools, which will have three football teams once Southwestern adds football in 2013, were considered a possibility to gain affiliate membership with the UAA and receive an automatic bid that way. This announcement eliminates that possibility for the duration of the teams' affiliate agreements.

The four UAA teams have been playing a coordinated schedule in football with the North Coast Athletic Conference in which members of both conferences fill most of the nonconference, and have been since 2008. That agreement runs through 2012, but it does not give the schools access to the NCAC’s automatic bid.

For Carnegie Mellon, this is a return to the PAC, where it has previously been a member. The Tartans won seven football titles during its time in the conference, the last in 1989 under the direction of current coach Rich Lackner. As a player and assistant coach, Lackner was a part of the other six PAC champion teams.

“I have always had tremendous respect for the PAC and look forward to renewing many of our historic rivalries. Our players will have a chance to compete for two conference championships and an automatic bid to the NCAA championship,” Lackner said. “This is an outstanding day for Carnegie Mellon football.”

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