After spending 23 years under the NCAA, St. Andrews University will move back to the ranks of the NAIA the school announced yesterday.
The Knights will make the move back to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for the 2012-2013 academic year and will join the Appalachian Athletic Conference starting next season.
The move will mean a split from the Conference Carolinas after joining the league in 1988. The Knights are ineligible to compete in Conference Carolinas postseason tournaments after the NCAA rescinded St. Andrews’ NCAA membership earlier this year due to accreditation issues.
St. Andrews announced a merger with Webber International University this summer which was approved in July. Webber International, a NAIA institution, competes in 22 sports, including 11 men’s sports and 11 women’s’ sports. The Warriors compete in the organization’s Sun Conference based in Daytona Beach, Fla.
In a statement released by the school this week, SAU President Paul Baldasare said that the move to the NAIA is in the best interest of the Knights’ student athletes.
“Based on what we believe to be in the best interest of our student-athletes and our intercollegiate athletic program as a whole, the University will be joining the NAIA and its Appalachian Athletics Conference (AAC),” Baldasare said. “All athletic scholarships awarded to current students will be renewed each year during their academic careers at St. Andrews, provided they maintain their team and academic eligibility. We look forward to rejoining the NAIA, which combines intense athletic competition with a strong history of integrity in athletics that mirrors the values and commitments of St. Andrews University.”
By entering the AAC, the Knights will join Bluefield College, Bryan College, Columbia College, Milligan College, Montreat College, Point University, Reinhardt University, Tennessee Wesleyan, Union College and Virginia Intermont College next season. St. Andrews will join Montreat College as the only other institution in the conference in North Carolina.
The conference spans across six states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.
“We will miss the spirited rivalries with our sister institutions in the NCAA Conference Carolinas,” SAU Athletic Director Glenn Batten said in a statement Tuesday. “They have been not only strong competitors, but also partners and our friends throughout the years. We believe that this decision is the best choice for St. Andrews and provides our students with high quality competition, including opportunities for post-season championship play.
“The NAIA’s academic requirements are slightly higher than in the NCAA, which reflects recognition our athletes are students first and foremost,” he said. “The NAIA ‘Champions of Character’ mission statement is built upon five core values – integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. These have long been the values of St. Andrews University and its athletic program.”
The Knights will be visited by NAIA President Jim Carr next month who will meet with the university’s administration, coaches and student-athletes to provide more information on the change.
St. Andrews wrestling head coach Joe Baranik said that he believes the move will be a good one for the Knights’ student athletes who will be able to participate in postseason play after they were denied by the NCAA this season.
“Postseason play gives you incentive, it’s a big part of what we build on,” Baranik said. “Obviously, we’re mentally geared towards the NCAA, but I think that we’ll be fine after the initial change. A lot of schools we compete with are NAIA schools, at least wrestling-wise, and I don’t think we’ll miss a beat. It’s going to give the kids a chance to play and further their development, which is what we’re here for.”