By BUDDY HUGHES firstname.lastname@example.org
College of Coastal Georgia will have a new home in the NAIA starting in the 2017-18 academic year.
Coastal was unanimously approved for membership into The Sun Conference by the league's Council of Presidents on Sunday. All Mariner athletics programs have been part of the Southern States Athletic Conference since moving up to the NAIA in 2011.
Coastal president Greg Aloia said in a statement that moving to The Sun Conference makes sense for the college's future.
"We are pleased that the presidents and chancellors of The Sun Conference member institutions agree that the College of Coastal Georgia is a proper partner from both an academics standpoint and an athletics perspective," Aloia said. "We are honored to be included in The Sun Conference."
Al Panu, chairman of the COP and chancellor of University of South Carolina Beaufort, said in a statement that the Mariner teams are an "extraordinary fit" for the conference in terms of academics, geography and athletic competitiveness.
"The Sun Conference Presidents and Chancellors are pleased to welcome the College of Coastal Georgia to the Sun Conference," Panu said. "We look forward to working with our colleagues at CCGA in the years ahead."
Coastal Georgia will become the 12th member of The Sun Conference. Currently, the conference consists of Florida universities Ave Maria, Florida Memorial, Johnson and Wales, Keiser, Southeastern, St. Thomas, Warner and Webber International, Savannah College of Art and Design and Thomas University in Georgia and University of South Carolina Beaufort.
Coastal currently offers eight of the 16 sports which The Sun Conference sponsors championship: men's and women's golf, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, softball and volleyball.
Coastal athletic director William Carlton said the college was happy to accept membership into The Sun Conference.
According to a release from Coastal, the college believes that switching conferences will help reduce travel time, which will allow students to spend more time in classes and also reduce travel costs across the athletic department.
"The Sun Conference is an outstanding and highly competitive league," Carlton said in a statement. "This is a great step forward for Mariners athletics. Membership in the Sun Conference will mean so much to our student-athletes in terms of both their academic and athletic experience.
"We have already built healthy competitive relationships with many of the conference's members and look forward to this new chapter of the college's athletic history beginning next fall."
Photo by The News
College of Coastal Georgia players congratulate each other after winning a point during an October match.