Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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College Sports

June 19, 2012

Change on the horizon

Concord athletic director speaks out

ATHENS — Change is difficult, but sometimes necessary.

That was the message that Concord University athletic director Kevin Garrett conveyed on Tuesday, addressing the decision of his institution and eight others to leave their longtime home, the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC).

“With any move like this, it’s never an easy thing to do,” Garrett said in a phone interview. “There have been a lot of schools tied to the West Virginia Conference for a number of years. It’s a hard decision ... a tough situation for everyone involved.”

The Pineville native recalled traveling from his Wyoming County home to Beckley to watch conference games as a youngster. He played baseball as a student at Bluefield State College, which is one of the six institutions remaining in the WVIAC.

Concord was one of 16 schools that agreed, at a Clarksburg hotel in 1924, to come together as the WVIAC. It was also one of the nine institutions that announced on Monday they would depart from the circuit at the end of June 2013.

The differences among the conference schools, a combination of public and private colleges and universities with varying enrollments and budgets, created frictions at times over the years.

“I know there were some issues,” Garrett said. “Everybody doesn’t carry the same amount of sports, and sometimes that creates issues.”

It culminated in a meeting of nine college and university presidents last Friday, in which they “unanimously made the decision to join together and break away from the West Virginia Conference and start a new conference,” Garrett said.

He said, “We want to put Concord University in the best possible position we can be in for our student-athletes, and the Concord athletic department and the university.”

Playing against other “like-minded” conference institutions, all of which offer football, will help with recruiting, Garrett said. “This will be big as far our recruiting goes,” he said.

Some institutions that were left out of the decision stated publicly on Monday their opinion that money, and not academic quality, was a major consideration of the nine schools. Garrett defended what he sees as his university’s priorities.

“We as an athletic department obviously want to put the best student-athlete in the classroom and on the playing field, and by doing this and joining with like-minded institutions, we feel ... it improves the opportunity to recruit the top-level athlete, both academically and athletically.”

He said the nine presidents “moved forward quickly and handled [the decision] very well.”

He confirmed that all nine schools agreed to a 24-hour period starting on Monday morning in which they would not comment personally on the decision beyond a joint news release, providing “one voice in this situation.”

“I think it allowed everyone to absorb what was happening,” he said. “A grace period, if you will.”

The Concord Board of Governors met Tuesday in Athens and Garrett discussed the move out of the WVIAC. He said he received “your standard questions, the timeline, that type of thing.”

He said organization of the new conference, which does not yet have a name, hasn’t started yet.

“Obviously, there are going to have to be several organizational meetings from this time on,” he said. Garrett said a key task will be to prepare documentation prior to Dec. 1 for the new circuit’s request to be accepted into the NCAA.

“I think this is a very exciting time that we’re moving through right now. Being in an all-sports conference with a regional footprint [is a way] for the institutions to put themselves in the best possible position moving forward.”

Attempts to contact Bluefield State College athletic officials were not immediately successful on Tuesday.

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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