Piedmont to jump from GSAC to USA South

Piedmont men's basketball and other men's sports will be able to compete for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the USA South starting with the 2012-13 season.
Piedmont athletics file photo 

Piedmont has announced plans to become the newest member of the USA South Athletic Conference. Piedmont president Ray Cleere, athletic director John Dzik, and USA South commissioner Rita Wiggs made the announcement at a joint news conference at the college’s Johnny Mize Athletic Center in Demorest, Ga.

“We are delighted to accept the invitation for membership offered to Piedmont College by the USA South Athletic Conference,” Dzik said. “Our coaches and student athletes look forward to forging new relationships, and we believe Piedmont will provide the USA South growth, stability, and quality athletic competition.”

The Great South Athletic Conference is too small to qualify for an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament in men's sports. Maryville and LaGrange have been offered full membership in the USA South as well and have until May 1 to decide.

Huntingdon, the only full Division III member of the GSAC in men's sports that has not received an invite to the USA South, is playing wait and see. "We won't know anything definite until the May 1 deadline and then we'll explore options," Huntingdon athletic director and women's basketball coach Buzz Phillips said. "We're still going to compete and play."

The move to the USA South Athletic Conference comes a little over a decade after Piedmont became a charter member of the GSAC. Piedmont’s move ensures that all student-athletes at Piedmont will now have the opportunity for postseason competition beyond conference tournament play. 

Cleere noted that Piedmont has already faced USA South teams over recent years in numerous non-conference games in a variety of sports. “We are vigorously accepting this invitation to join the USA South, we believe we can be highly competitive in the league, and we look forward to our new athletic associations,” Cleere said.

Wiggs said Piedmont shared a similar academic and athletic profile with the existing USA South teams. “The conference has conducted extensive reviews, and the time is now right for USA South and Piedmont College to become partners for the future,” said Wiggs of the newest conference addition.

Dzik said Piedmont will continue to compete in GSAC play during the upcoming 2011-12 school year before making the switch to USA South competition in the 2012-13 school year. The college will enter as a full member and will be immediately eligible for automatic bids to compete in post-season NCAA tournaments in all sports.

The USA South Conference currently includes 10 full members with the largest being Christopher Newport with 4,793 students while the smallest is Peace with 662 students, all women. Piedmont currently has about 2,800 students overall with 1,200 enrolled at the Demorest campus. Other members of USA South include Averett, Ferrum, Greensboro, Mary Baldwin, Meredith , Methodist, N.C. Wesleyan and Shenandoah. Shenandoah leaves to join the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in 2012-13.

The conference also has three associate members, Agnes Scott and LaGrange, both of which compete only in women’s lacrosse; and Maryville, which competes in football.

Piedmont will compete in USA South conference play in volleyball, softball, baseball, soccer, basketball, cross country, golf, and tennis. The school will add men’s lacrosse to its list of sports in the spring of 2012, while the women’s lacrosse team anticipates USA South conference play in 2013.