December 26, 2012

Southern Virginia links up with NJAC

Southern Virginia lost to Division I FCS Morehead State, played two D-III schools and a handful of young NAIA and other unaffiliated programs.
Southern Virginia athletics photo

The New Jersey Athletic Conference has announced that Southern Virginia will become an affiliate football member of the NJAC beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. The addition of SVU to the conference became official following successful votes on its membership application by both the NJAC Presidents Council and the league’s Board of Athletic Administrators.

"The New Jersey Athletic Conference is proud to welcome Southern Virginia University as the newest affiliate football member of our conference," said NJAC Commissioner Terry Small. "Our membership is excited about the addition of the SVU program in the 2014 season, and very thankful to president Paul K. Sybrowsky, vice president Scott Y. Doxey, and head coach DeLane Fitzgerald for their work in helping to make this affiliation possible."

Currently in its first year of the NCAA Division III provisional membership process, Southern Virginia University has sponsored football as a varsity sport since the 2003-04 academic year. The institution announced June 25 that it will become a full member of the Capital Athletic Conference beginning in the 2013-14 academic year. The CAC does not currently sponsor football.

The school essentially replaces Western Connecticut, which leaves the New Jersey Athletic Conference this offseason to join the MASCAC, which is sponsoring football for the first time. Southern Virginia went 5-6 this past season, splitting two games against Division III opponents, beating North Carolina Wesleyan 24-14 and losing 20-7 at Ferrum. The move will mean Division III will be down to three independents in the 2014 football season, barring other moves.

Hitting the road

Located in Buena Vista, Va., Southern Virginia is 55 miles from Salem, but isn't within 300 miles of anyone in the NJAC, by the NCAA's mapping charts. Fellow independent Wesley, on the other hand, runs about 250 miles closer.
School Distance
Cortland State 464
Kean 402
Montclair State 406
Morrisville State 488
Rowan 326
TCNJ 375
William Paterson 412

“The New Jersey Athletic Conference is a great fit for our football program and we are thrilled to be joining the conference as an affiliate member,” said Doxey. “This affiliate opportunity, along with full membership in the CAC, allows us to offer a full NCAA Division III athletic experience that is focused on academics and the overall educational experience of our scholar-athletes.”          

The addition of the Southern Virginia program in 2014-15 will increase the NJAC football membership to eight institutions, including full members Kean, Montclair State, Rowan, TCNJ and William Paterson. The conference will also feature three affiliate football members in Cortland State, Morrisville State and Southern Virginia.

“Becoming a football member of the NJAC will facilitate scheduling, while allowing us to build new competitive rivalries with fellow conference members,” said Doxey. “It will also provide our football scholar-athletes a common goal — the opportunity to compete for a conference championship.”

Southern Virginia’s 10-year-old football program competed as an independent member of the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association from 2003-11, producing three NAIA All-Americans and 20 NAIA All-Independent selections during that time period. In their first year of NCAA Division III provisional membership this past fall, the Knights competed in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and recorded the program’s second-highest single-season win total, going 5-6 under Fitzgerald, including three consecutive wins to close the season.

“The NJAC is a top football conference within Division III,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re excited to become a member of such an elite group of teams and we hope to be competitive right away. Our players will have a chance to compete for a conference championship and to earn a bid to the national tournament.”

The NJAC Board of Athletic Administrators has initiated the development of an eight-team composite block conference schedule for the 2014 season. Each NJAC team will play a seven-game league schedule, with the conference champion receiving an automatic qualification to the NCAA Division III playoffs. Southern Virginia is first eligible for a playoff bid in the fall of 2016.

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@ Salem, Va.
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