Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 3, 2014

Bluefield College returns to Appalachian Athletic Conference

Staff reports
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Bluefield College has decided to move its athletic programs back to the Appalachian Athletic Conference.

After two seasons in the Mid-South Conference and NAIA Division I, the Rams will re-join on the ACC, which was home to Bluefield athletics for nearly two decades in the 1999s and early 2000s.

Bluefield will remain in the Mid-South for football since the AAC currently does not offer football.

“We are appreciative the AAC has approved our application to return to the conference this fall,” Bluefield College President David Olive said, in a press release. “While our experiences in the Mid-South have been positive, the AAC is a great fit for our teams and feels like being home.”

Bluefield left the AAC and joined the Mid-South in the fall of 2012, with the Rams looking for a league for its football program that was reinstated that season.

In addition to a conference home for football and a history of national championships, the Mid-South offered Bluefield the potential for strong regional rivalries with the likes of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, West Virginia Tech, Pikeville, and Rio Grande.

 “When we joined the Mid-South, West Virginia Tech and UVA-Wise were among our closest competitors.” said Bluefield Athletics Director Peter Dryer, “They’re gone now, and Rio Grande, Cumberland and Georgetown are likely to follow.

“The conference just looks a lot different from when we started.”

UVa-Wise left the Mid-South to join the Mountain East Conference, and WVU-Tech switch to NAIA independent status.

According to the Bluefield College press release, Rio Grande plans to leave for the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC), while Cumberland and Georgetown have announced their intentions to move to NCAA Division II.

“We have enjoyed our time in the Mid-South Conference and are grateful to have had the opportunity to compete with the schools there, but our future, however, is in the AAC, and we are excited to be back,” said Dryer, who is also the men’s soccer coach at Bluefield College.

Bluefield will return to the AAC in the fall, a league where the Rams and Lady Rams won six consecutive conference championships in men’s golf, claimed six conference championships in 11 years in men’s basketball (including an 18-0 regular season mark in 2009), earned a league title in baseball, and finished second twice in women’s volleyball.

“We obviously have a history with the AAC, which is full of schools similar to Bluefield College and with similar missions,” Dryer said. “The stability of this conference is very appealing. It’s growing, the competition is great in all sports, and the opportunity to continue fulfilling our mission through athletics in the AAC is very encouraging.”

Bluefield College was actually a charter member of the Tennessee-Virginia Athletic Conference before the league became the AAC in 2001.

Among the schools that will be part of the AAC includes Bryan, Columbia, Milligan, Montreat, Point, Reinhardt, the Savannah School of Art and Design-Atlanta, St. Andrews, Tennessee Wesleyan, Truett-McConnell, Union and Virginia Intermont.

John Sullivan, the commissioner of the ACC, is glad to have Bluefield back in the league. The AAC offers competition in 15 sports, eight for women and seven for men, with Bluefield currently offering all but track and field. They will also add men’s volleyball in 2015, which isn’t offered by the AAC.

 “The AAC is happy to welcome Bluefield College back to our league,” Sullivan said. “Bluefield had been a member for many years, and we’re glad to have them back in our conference.

“They bring a full array of competitive sports and are well known to our

members. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.”

Bluefield will remain in the Mid-South for football, but the press release said the school explore other options for football in the future.

“There is a potential for football in the AAC in the future, and that’s attractive to us,” said Dryer. “We’re certainly open to the idea of bringing football and even men’s volleyball into the AAC, should the conference decide to add those sports.

“We think it would be a great opportunity for success.”