|La Grange's football program had a temporary home in the SLIAC but will be USA South members in all sports starting in 2012-13.|
LaGrange has accepted an invitation to join the USA South Athletic Conference, beginning competition in the 2012-13 academic year.
Recently approved by the school’s Board of Trustees, the move brings several benefits, according to president Dan McAlexander.
“Our student-athletes now will have more opportunities to achieve excellence through postseason play," he said, "especially our men’s teams, who will be able to compete for automatic bids to their respective NCAA Division III ... playoffs.”
LaGrange women’s teams will continue to vie for automatic bids, as they currently do in the Great South Athletic Conference, he said. The school is a founding member of the GSAC and will honor its commitments there through the 2011-12 academic year.
Other members of USA South include Averett, Christopher Newport, Ferrum, Greensboro, Mary Baldwin, Meredith, Methodist, N.C. Wesleyan, Peace and Shenandoah. Shenandoah leaves to join the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in 2012-13, while Piedmont will join at that time.
Maryville, which was also invited to join the league, is an associate member in football already. The Scots have until May 1 to accept the offer of full membership.
New athletic director Jennifer Claybrook said joining the USA South is a win-win situation.
“The conference move will allow us to establish and maintain long-term rivalries,” she said. “And it will give our team sports two opportunities to receive a bid to the NCAA III ... playoffs – an at-large bid and a conference bid.”
Currently competing as an independent, the Panther football team will enjoy other benefits in the USA South.
“This will provide more of our student-athletes with the opportunity to compete for a number of all-conference awards, from player-of-the-week to all-conference to academic-all-conference,” Claybrook said. “Conference honors will make our players more competitive for national recognition.”
She said planning the season also will be easier. “Our men’s sports won’t have to worry about scheduling so many out-of-conference games, which is extremely challenging.”