The Southern Conference announced today that Samford University has accepted an invitation to join the Conference. Samford will become the 12th member of the SoCon beginning July 1, 2008.

 

The SoCon’s Council of Presidents formally ratified the unanimous endorsement of the league’s Executive Committee during a teleconference held this morning.

 

“We are delighted that Samford University will become the 12th member of the SoCon,” said Southern Conference commissioner John Iamarino. “Samford’s institutional profile is one that is very consistent with those of our current members – strong academics, an unwavering commitment to the welfare and graduation of the student-athlete, combined with a burning desire to operate a successful athletics program within the mission of the institution.”

 

In 2003-04, Samford was ranked seventh --- along with Harvard, Bradley and U.S. Naval Academy --- in the inaugural national Academic Progress Ratings (APR). Over the last five years, more than 50 percent of Samford’s student-athletes earned a grade point average of 3.00 or better. In the last three academic years, Samford student-athletes have earned an average grade point average of 2.85.

 

“The invitation from the Southern Conference comes at a unique point in Samford’s history,” Samford President Dr. Andrew Westmoreland said. “Finding the right balance of academics and athletics is a strategic planning priority for Samford, and we share other peer relationships with Southern Conference member institutions that make the athletics relationship right for us at this time. This has not been an easy decision for Samford University. We are grateful for the good relationships we have enjoyed with our fellow OVC institutions. The decision to join the OVC was the right one for Samford at that time. It is important for us to focus on the long-term academic and athletics priorities that will meet the goals that our trustees, alumni, faculty and students expect for Samford.”

 

With the addition of Samford, the Conference expands to 12 members located in five states -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. Current league members include: Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.); College of Charleston (Charleston, S.C.); The Citadel (Charleston, S.C.); Davidson College (Davidson, N.C.); Elon University (Elon, N.C.); Furman University (Greenville, S.C.); Georgia Southern University (Statesboro, Ga.); University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Greensboro, N.C.); University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (Chattanooga, Tenn.); Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, N.C.); and Wofford College (Spartanburg, S.C.). The league is headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C.

 

“This day speaks volumes about the progression of Samford athletics,” Samford Director of Athletics Bob Roller said. “It also points to the dedication and hard work of many coaches and student-athletes who have worked tirelessly to put us in this position. Competing in the Southern Conference in intercollegiate athletics is a challenge – plain and simple. I have not met one member of our program who does not welcome this challenge. We look forward to working with Commissioner (John) Iamarino and staff in the coming days.”

 

Founded in 1841 and located in Birmingham, Samford is the largest independently supported university in the state of Alabama. With an enrollment of more than 4,500 students, Samford sponsors 17 sports for men and women.

 

“The addition of Samford will benefit the SoCon in many ways,” Iamarino said. “It will strengthen our efforts in both football and basketball scheduling. It provides a road-swing partner for Chattanooga on the western flank of the Conference. It opens up a significant southern market (Birmingham) to SoCon exposure. Most importantly, it gives us another institution committed to operating a good competitive program while not sacrificing its academic integrity in any manner. Simply put, Samford is going to make the Southern Conference a better league.”

 

Samford has established a record of success as a member of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) winning 11 team titles the last four seasons. Nine coaches have been honored as OVC Coach of the Year with eight student-athletes earning conference Player of the Year recognition. Winner of the OVC’s 2004 women’s all-sports championship, the Bulldogs have won four straight conference women’s soccer titles and advanced to the second round of the 2005 NCAA Championship. In 2006, pitcher Josh Ehmke was named Honorable Mention All-American by Collegiate Baseball and J. Robert Merritt became the school’s first Honorable Mention All-American in men’s basketball. Lauren Blankenship was named All-American in both cross country and track. Four Samford football players have earned All-American status the last four seasons.

 

“During our campus visit and the many discussions we have conducted, I have been greatly impressed with the new president at Samford, Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, with athletic director Bob Roller, his staff and his head coaches,” said Iamarino. “They have expressed their enthusiasm and desire to meet the challenge of joining a new conference and we look forward to working with them.”

 

The Southern Conference is the nation’s fifth-oldest NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association. The Southern Conference has excelled as the premier football championship subdivision conference. The league sponsors championships in 19 sports including: men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, football, men’s and women’s indoor track & field, men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s outdoor track & field, softball and baseball.

 

What They are Saying ...

 Samford University is a distinguished institution with high academic standards and a tradition of athletic competition that will add to the proud history of the Southern Conference.” --- Dr. Roger Brown, chancellor, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

 

 “The academic reputation of Samford will further enhance the reputation of the Southern Conference as one that is exemplary in its recognition of priorities beyond the arena and the playing field.” --- Dr. Benjamin Dunlap, president, Wofford College

 

 “Samford will be a good addition to the quality institutions currently in our conference, and will expand the footprint of our conference into a new state.” --- Dr. Kenneth Peacock, chancellor, Appalachian State University