By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bluefield State’s athletic programs have a new home.
When the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Association ceased operations on July 30 this past year, Bluefield State in essence became homeless. While many schools from the WVIAC went to the newly-formed Mountain East Conference and some to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, the Blues were left out and have played the current academic season as an independent — that was until Thursday.
BSC President Marsha Krotseng announced Thursday afternoon that the school has been accepted as a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, with membership effective immediately. That means the school’s basketball teams will be able to receive weekly and season honors as well as spring sports.
“Bluefield State is very proud of our new affiliation and we look forward to competing as a full member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference,” Krotseng said. “Bluefield State College will continue to compete as an NCAA Division II institution.”
Athletics Director Terry Brown further added that conference rules do not require every member to play each other every season and that old rivalries can be played due to the fact that many schools hold dual membership in the ECAC and other conferences.
“This provides Bluefield State College with some important flexibility,” Brown said. “It will give us flexibility to compete against institutions that are members of the ECAC in our region, but it will also allow us to compete against other institutions that may not be members of the ECAC.
“We will continue playing Concord, we’ve got a commitment there as well as West Virginia State, Glenville State, Fairmont State, Alderson-Broaddus — those are some of the members that are still very close to us.”
In the year-and-a-half the search has been underway for a conference home for Bluefield State athletics, Brown said the biggest priority was travel and that being said, there were areas administration focused on.
“We had three concerns,” Brown said. “Our number one concern was, ‘What is the best interest of our student athletes?’ No. 2, ‘What is in the best interest of Bluefield State College?’ No. 3, ‘Where would our community interests be in them continuing to support athletics at Bluefield State?’”
Tennis coach Louis Belt’s men’s team has advanced to the NCAA Division II championship in each of the last two seasons. Belt said a pressure is lifted from his program as a result of having a conference home.
“It’s obviously a positive step in the right direction — quite honestly a relief,” Belt said. “Now that we are a part of something we can, as far as recruiting, as far as scheduling, as far as being able to concentrate on playing on the court, now we can quit worrying about this (conference affiliation) and concentrate on what we’re good at as coaches and just get back to worrying about our sports and doing the best that we can.”
Men’s basketball head coach Jamaal Jackson believes the new affiliation and the fact that membership is immediate, is a morale booster for his Big Blues hoops team.
“We had a shoot-around this morning (Thursday) and I told our guys what was going on with the conference and we will be eligible for individual weekly accolades, season accolades and post-season play if we finish with a record that deserves it,” Jackson said. “It picked them up. Lately I’ve heard some rumblings, ‘What are we playing for?’
“To hear this news, that has picked them up and I’m sure will carry us through the season.”
The women’s basketball team headed into the past summer without any commitments. Assistant coach LaKeisha White thinks joining the ECAC will be a plus for the program.
“I feel that in the recruiting process, just having the word ‘conference’ means a lot to players when recruiting them,” White said. “Last year we did struggle, but we had a good pool of ladies (commit).
“Now, being able to say we’re affiliated with the ECAC and having something for them to go on the internet and research, they will see what the ECAC is about, what BSC is about. This means a lot for us. I really believe it will help us in our recruiting process.”
Edric Portier is the newest addition to the BSC athletic family, starting this past fall as volleyball and softball coach. This past season he was not able to recruit a single volleyball player, but he believes fortunes will change.
“It’s going to help tremendously,” Portier said. “I have been communicating with kids that are interested in playing volleyball here, sending them emails and they are asking information about the program. One of the things I had to tell them was at present we were not affiliated with a conference.
“That was kind of a hindrance to some of them because nobody wants to play for fun. Everybody wants to be a part of some kind of championship at the end of the season and now I am able to get back onto my email and say we’ve just been accepted into a conference and now we’re eligible for post-season play and there is no hesitation in wanting to be a part of our program anymore.”
The ECAC, based in Centerville, Mass., is the nation’s largest athletic and the only multi-divisional conference in the country with 312 Division I, II and III colleges and universities. Established in 1938 the conference sponsors nearly 100 championships in 37 men’s and women’s sports and assigns more than 4,400 officials in 12 sports.
According to the conference website, former WVIAC members Alderson-Broaddus, Ohio Valley, Salem International, Seton Hill and Wheeling Jesuit are listed as ECAC members in addition to their primary conference affiliation. Alderson-Broaddus, Ohio Valley and Salem International are members of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, Seton Hill a member of the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference and Wheeling Jesuit belongs to the Mountain East. West Virginia University is a Division I member of the ECAC.
— Contact Bob Redd at