By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference will be a thing of the past on June 30.
After 89 years one of the oldest college conferences will close its doors as teams have left for the newly-formed Mountain East Conference, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and yet-to-be-determined affiliations, as is the situation with Bluefield State College.
Despite the league’s eminent walk down death row, the WVIAC will live on at Bluefield State.
Friday afternoon an agreement was signed between the college and the WVIAC in which BSC would be home to the conference’s records.
“At the time the conference dissolution was being discussed, obviously the archives were one of the major assets,” said BSC president Marsha Krotseng. “And Bluefield State, because of our proximity to the conference offices, offered to have Jim Leedy take a look at the archives to see what we might be able to do with those.
“Jim was very willing and I appreciate his interest in taking a look at those archives and providing his professional opinion. That was taken back to the board of directors of the WVIAC about a month ago and the decision was made for the archives to move here.”
Leedy is an archivist with BSC. He said that once the material is processed it will be available for public use.
“On the second floor of the library we have a museum and have artifacts of Bluefield State College and we’re expanding into another large room that will be for the WVIAC archives,” Leedy said. “Once the material has been catalogued and we’ve gone through that process, it will be available to the public just like the Bluefield State material is.”
Barry Blizzard has been WVIAC commissioner since 1987 and before that worked in the athletic department at BSC.
“I think it’s extremely important to preserve this history,” Blizzard said. “Throughout the past year, with the dissolution of the conference, one of my main concerns has been that the archives not be lost. We’re looking at 89 years of history, one of the premier small college conferences in America.
“We have extensive archives of statistical and historical information that I think in future years, if someone were writing a book, or doing research on a family member that had played in the league back years before, this material would be invaluable to them.
“With Jim’s (Leedy) help and also Stan Bumgardner, who is going to be assisting with this, I think they are going to get those materials into a situation where you don’t have to come and go through boxes, you can go to an index and find what you need and then go directly to the source.”
The WVIAC was formed in 1924 and charter members were Alderson, Bethany, Broaddus, Concord, Davis & Elkins, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Marshall, Morris Harvey (now University of Charleston), New River State (now WVU Tech), Potomac State, Salem, Shepherd, West Liberty, West Virginia University and West Virginia Wesleyan. Alderson College and Broaddus College later merged to form the present-day Alderson-Broaddus in Philippi.
WVU left the league in 1927 and Marshall in 1949.
Bluefield State and West Virginia State joined in 1955 after the conference integrated following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954.
In 1994 the league moved from the NAIA to the NCAA Division II.
Only the Big 10 (1895), Missouri Valley (1907), Southwestern Athletic (1920) and Southern (1921) are older leagues that are still in existence. By comparison, the Atlantic Coast Conference was formed in 1953, the Southeastern Conference in 1932, and the Big 12 in 1996.
The WVIAC basketball tournament was the second-oldest continuous post-season conference tournament, having started in 1936, trailing only the Southern Conference tourney which began in 1922.
A definite date has not been set for when the materials will be available to the public.
“I don’t want to set a particular date,” Leedy said. “If you do that things come up and you won’t meet it. But I would say a minimum of six months.”
Blizzard concluded, “With my career being associated with the WVIAC for over 40 years, these archives mean a lot to me and personally I am extremely glad that Bluefield State has stepped up to do this. I am very, very pleased that they are going to be kept safe.”
— Contact Bob Redd