Facing a new challenge
From the The Brunswick News
When its 2012-13 academic school year begins this fall, College of Coastal Georgia's athletic teams will embark on a brand new phase of competition -- one that will test each team's mettle from the opening bell.
Now a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the teams at Coastal Georgia will begin play as part of the Southern States Athletic Conference, a collection of 15 schools in six states spanning a geographic area as far west as New Orleans and as far north as Cleveland, Tenn., including six schools in the state of Georgia.
The conference sponsors 13 separate sports, 10 of which Coastal will play as conference members in 2012-13: men's and women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf, men's and women's cross country, softball and volleyball.
In the SSAC, cross country, soccer and volleyball are played in the fall semester, basketball is played during the winter months, and baseball, golf, softball and tennis are contested in the spring.
Coastal will participate in the conference's East Division for the sports that use a divisional breakdown, sliding into the spot left vacant by the departure of Shorter University, which moved to the Gulf South Conference in NCAA Division II. The conference groups the Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina schools into one division, while the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana schools make up the other.
"In my time, Lee University has won a lot of championships, (and) Mobile, Auburn-Montgomery, William Carey, Belhaven and Southern Polytechnic are all right there with them -- all very, very competitive across the board in a lot of sports," said SSAC Commissioner Kurt Patberg. "Those schools seem to be in the mix an awful lot in various sports."
The most recent athletic seasons saw Belhaven (women's basketball), Lee (volleyball, men's and women's golf, women's soccer and baseball), Auburn-Montgomery (men's and women's tennis), Southern Poly (men's soccer) and Shorter (men's and women's cross country, men's basketball and softball) claim conference championships.
Conference members also won three NAIA national championships: Shorter in softball, Auburn-Montgomery in women's tennis and Lee in women's soccer.
"It varies from sport to sport," Patberg said. "You have certain schools that are very strong in certain sports. Brenau, which is an all-women's school, doesn't have the opportunity to compete for as many championships, but they are very good in softball. If you just look at our league overall, I feel very comfortable saying this, if you can be in the top echelon in our conference, you will be in the top echelon of the NAIA. That's how strong our conference is.
"People know, if they have a chance to win the conference, they should be somewhere nationally ranked and have a chance to win a national championship."
Coastal Georgia will bring a long history of success in men's basketball under Gerald Cox to the conference, as well as fine showings this past season by the brand new women's basketball and volleyball programs. Both golf teams, too, figure to be a handful for their new conference brethren after the men finished fifth in the nation against NAIA competition in 2011-12 -- in just their second year in existence -- and the women 18th.
"Men's golf has been very, very competitive," Patberg said of the SSAC. "In the last two years in men's golf, if you look at the top three both years, I think five different schools have finished in those six spots. William Carey, Southern Wesleyan, Lee, Shorter -- it's been really unique (in) that particular sport.
"Our coaches already know what's coming and know how competitive Coastal Georgia will be in men's and women's golf."
Patberg said the addition of Coastal Georgia's teams will make an already solid conference that much more competitive. He said the school's location is also a bonus.
"It's kind of like having a school in New Orleans. That is a town that people take a vacation to go visit, and the same thing comes in to play with (Coastal Georgia). It's neat for the student-athletes to be able to say 'Wow, we're traveling down to Sea Island and the beach and to Brunswick.' It's different than going to New Orleans, but the same thing holds true: our student-athletes are getting to see something they may have never seen in their life.
"It's a good league, and College of Coastal Georgia will be a great addition."
|Release Date: 7/24/2012|
Source: The Brunswick News
|By DAVE JORDAN|