The University of Virginia’s College at Wise announced that they would be switching sports conferences from the Mountain East Conference to the South Atlantic Conference or SAC.
UVa-Wise entered NCAA Division 2, competing in the MEC and has done so since 2013. While playing in this conference, the football team maintained an overall record of 16 and 39. The lacrosse team has totaled a record of 35 and 25 during this stretch and the softball team were 135 and 103, just to name a few of the records posted during Wise’s time in the conference.
“I think we can develop some great rivalries between UVa-Wise and the other schools,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna Price Henry said at the announcement.
This is a great possibility considering the distance between Wise and the other colleges in the South Atlantic Conference. Athletic Director Kendall Rainey said that “We have four schools within the South Atlantic Conference that are within a closer or the same distance as our closest opponent in the Mountain East Conference.” These schools will be competing in recruitment, as well as on the field or court.
A few of the schools included in the SAC are Carson Newman, Catawba, Mars Hill, Lincoln Memorial and Tusculum College. The Cavaliers have faced off against a number of SAC schools previously and had great success. This season, the UVa-Wise Lacrosse team defeated Catawba College 13-12, Lincoln Memorial 17-2, Mars Hill 17-6 and Tusculum 15-10. The softball team has also fared well against the SAC, defeating Tusculum 2-0.
Chancellor Henry said that the difference between competing in the Mountain East and the South Atlantic Conference is about “distance and footprint.”
“Mountain East travel is a lot more difficult for our students” Henry said. “Distances can be six or seven hours. They’re missing class, we’re spending time in hotels.”
Rainey added that the switch from conferences would save the college around 30 percent on travel expenses.
This has not been an overnight decision either. Patrick Britz, the Commissioner of the SAC said that “This has been a process for about three years to be quite honest.”
“We knew as a league, we definitely wanted to get back to 12 (schools), but we have been extremely deliberate and choosey about who that 12th member would be,” Britz said.
Britz said that the reason for the addition of UVa-Wise was due to the transition to NCAA Division 3 by Brevard College. Britz also said that the SAC consists mainly of private schools, but UVa-Wise possesses more of the same qualities of the SAC than other private schools in the region.
The change is set for July 1, 2019.