After two years of evaluation, work, and preparation, Belhaven College is changing to a new athletic conference within the NAIA – the Southern States Athletic Conference which offers 14 conference supported sports for our athletes.
Our long-term conference, the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, includes schools who offer a limited number of sports – it is primarily a basketball focused conference.
Our membership in the GCAC has left many of Belhaven’s team competing in the independent category in the quest to compete for a berth to the national tournament for their sport, and without the opportunity to compete for a conference championship. Further, a number of schools in the GCAC are public institutions who do not share our same academic entrance requirements or financial framework.
In contrast the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) members are primarily private schools who offer a wide array of sports. This will give Belhaven an opportunity for all our teams to compete for conference championships and win bids to national tournaments. Being a 16 member conference, the SSAC receives two automatic bids to most national championships.
Four other schools from the GCAC will be moving to SSAC with us: Loyola University (New Orleans), William Carey University (Hattiesburg), Spring Hill College and University of Mobile (both in Mobile). We will be joining with two current SSAC members, Auburn University Montgomery and Faulkner University (both in Montgomery), to make up the west division of the SSAC.
The schools in the east division include: Berry College, Brenau University, Brewton-Parker College, Columbia College, Emmanuel College, Lee University, Shorter College, Southern Polytechnic University and Southern Wesleyan University.
The SSAC will serve all our sports except football – we will remain in the Mid-South Conference for football only.
The link to the full press release from the conference can be found here: SSAC Approves Major Expansion to 16 Institutions
Scott Little, our Vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics has done a marvelous job of leading us through this process and working with both the current and new conference, as well as the other schools’ ADs. I’ve been keeping in close touch with the other presidents and found wonderful harmony as all believe the SSAC is a strong move for our athletic programs – making the SSAC one of the premier conferences in the NAIA. We are also convinced that GCAC will continue to remain strong as they now have room to add schools who offer basketball and only a few other sports.
We will complete the current academic year in the GCAC, and begin in the SSAC next fall.
Here is a map of all the schools in the conference: