SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Belmont University will join the Southern Conference as an associate member for men’s soccer beginning with the 2018 season, SoCon Commissioner John Iamarino announced Monday.
The Bruins will join current SoCon men’s soccer members ETSU, Furman, Mercer, UNCG, VMI and Wofford to form a seven-team league. Belmont will be eligible to vie for conference championships and NCAA tournament bids immediately.
“This should be a win-win for both parties,” Iamarino said. “It gives our programs another conference game in a sport in which only 60 percent of our full-time members compete, and it provides Belmont’s program with a more economical travel schedule. We’re delighted to begin an association with an institution as highly regarded as Belmont University.”
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Belmont is currently a men’s soccer associate member of the Horizon League, which it joined in 2014 after two years as a Division I independent. The Bruins’ other sports compete in the Ohio Valley Conference, which does not sponsor men’s soccer.
“This is an exciting day for our university, athletic department and men’s soccer program,” Belmont University Director of Athletics Scott Corley said. “The Southern Conference stands among the most highly regarded and accomplished leagues in the country, and this partnership offers countless opportunities for growth and shared interest. We eagerly await this next chapter for Bruin soccer.”
The Belmont men’s soccer program dates back to 1991 and moved to NCAA Division I in 1997. Head coach Bryan Green just completed his third year at the helm, and top assistant Mark Carr, who was a four-year letterwinner at VMI, played in the SoCon from 1999-02.
“We are excited about the new possibilities and challenges the Southern Conference will present,” Green said. “The SoCon is traditionally a very strong conference, as evidenced by earning multiple bids to the NCAA tournament this past year. Being able to develop regional rivalries and rekindle past series within conference is something we welcome.”
A longtime member of the Atlantic Sun Conference before it joined the OVC, Belmont will be reunited with former ASUN foes ETSU and Mercer in the SoCon. The Bucs and Bears both earned NCAA tournament bids this season, giving the SoCon two teams in the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Belmont’s men’s soccer team has posted an APR of at least 986 in each of the 11 years of the academic progress rate’s existence.
ABOUT THE SOUTHERN CONFERENCE
The Southern Conference, which is in its 96th season of intercollegiate competition in 2016-17, is a national leader in emphasizing the development of the student-athlete and helping build lifelong leaders and role models. The conference has been on the forefront of innovation and originality in developing creative solutions to address issues facing intercollegiate athletics. From establishing the first conference basketball tournament (1921), to tackling the issues of freshman eligibility (1922), to developing women’s championships (1984) to becoming the first conference to install the 3-point goal in basketball (1980), the Southern Conference has been a pioneer. The Southern Conference is the nation’s fifth-oldest NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association. The conference currently consists of 10 members in six states throughout the Southeast and sponsors 21 varsity sports and championships that produce participants for NCAA Division I Championships.
ABOUT BELMONT UNIVERSITY
Ranked No. 6 in the Regional Universities South category and named as a “Most Innovative” university by U.S. News & World Report, Belmont University consists of more than 7,700 students who come from every state and more than 25 countries. Committed to being a leader among teaching universities, Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service. The University’s purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world’s needs. With more than 90 areas of undergraduate study, 19 master’s programs and five doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont University can expand an individual's horizon. For more information, visit www.belmont.edu.