Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 19, 2012

WVIAC breaks up

PRINCETON — One of the oldest college athletic conferences in the nation was reeling Monday after nine of its 15 institutions announced they were leaving the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) at the end of next June.

Concord University is one of the nine schools, all of which offer football as an intercollegiate sport. Bluefield State College is one of the six that would be left behind.

A joint release sent out by the nine schools on Monday said they “unanimously decided that it would be in the best interests of its institutions to pursue the formation of a new athletic conference.”

They plan to develop a regional all-sports conference of 12 institutions — all of which will play football — that will begin competition in the fall of 2013.

“It is a devastating blow,” said WVIAC commissioner Barry Blizzard, who has been in charge of the league for 26 of its 88 years.

Blizzard, who had hoped to retire in about five years, is now left to oversee a fractured conference for the next 12 months.

“I still work for a board of presidents for all the schools,” a still-stunned Blizzard said. “I’ve been told to continue work as normal. They are working the other things out.”

He said he was informed by phone on Saturday afternoon of the proposed pullout. “This move is happening totally independent of the WVIAC,” he said. On Monday afternoon, he said, “The phones have been ringing off the hook.”

Bluefield State’s athletics director, Terry Brown, said late Monday morning that he had not heard from the conference office and deferred further comment. The athletics director at Concord, Kevin Garrett, declined comment other than to reference the joint statement.

The nine departing schools, in addition to Concord, are the University of Charleston, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., Shepherd University, West Liberty University, West Virginia State University and West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Their exit from the WVIAC would leave six institutions — Bluefield State, Alderson-Broaddus College, Davis & Elkins College, Ohio Valley University, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ), and Wheeling Jesuit University.

The athletics director at Wheeling Jesuit, Danny Sancomb, said in an email from the school on Monday, “The decision by some members of the WVIAC to form a new conference appears to have been made largely for financial reasons and seems to have taken the focus off the student-athlete.”

“As Wheeling Jesuit athletics moves forward, we will continue to focus on maintaining academic excellence and quality athletic programs.”

Blizzard said the departing schools are expected to respect an existing 12-month waiting period before exiting the circuit. He said he has been told to plan for the current 15-team league through the 2012-13 academic year.

Knopsnyder is editor of the Johnstown (Pa.) Tribune-Democrat, a sister newspaper of the Daily Telegraph. Tom Bone is a Daily Telegraph sports writer. Contact him at tbone@bdtonline.com.

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