The Southern Conference Executive Committee Thursday voted to accept the recommendation of the league's Expansion Committee and extend an invitation to Elon University to join the Southern Conference.
The addition of Elon will keep the SoCon's membership at 12. VMI announced last fall that it will leave the SoCon for the Big South Conference. Elon is currently a member of the Big South.
A news conference will be held on Friday, May 31 at Elon University where University President Dr. Leo Lambert and Director of Athletics Dr. Alan White along with Southern Conference Commissioner Dr. Danny Morrison will make a formal announcement.
"We are delighted to have Elon join the Southern Conference," said Dr. Bruce Grube, the president of Georgia Southern University and the chair of the league's Council of Presidents.
"The institution fits all of the criteria we were seeking in a new member: it is within our regional footprint, it has a competitive football program and it has quality academic programs."
Elon University sponsors 16 intercollegiate sports: seven for men and nine for women. The men's sports include football, cross country, soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, and tennis. Women's sports include volleyball, cross country, track and indoor track, soccer, basketball, softball, golf, and tennis.
"Elon's football program has been able to crack the national rankings in
recent years," said Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Sam Baker.
"While many consider the Southern Conference to have the best brand of
football in I-AA, I would expect Elon should provide strong competition
during the league schedule."
The Southern Conference's expansion committee visited the Elon campus on April 8-9 and was impressed by both the academic and athletic programs.
"A number of our members who had not been on the Elon campus in over a decade, were both amazed and impressed with the beauty of the campus and the quality of the facilities," said Dr. Ted Monroe, the faculty athletics representative from Wofford College and the president of the Southern Conference.
"Furthermore, while one could easily recognize the tremendous improvement in the physical plant, as a faculty member, it was also great to see that same kind of improvement in the academic program," said Monroe. "Just as importantly, we were very impressed with their leadership."
"This is a strong, positive step forward for the Southern Conference," said Dr. David Knight, the faculty athletics representative at UNC Greensboro. "Elon's stature, on both the regional and national levels, is growing annually."
Elon became an NCAA Division I member in 1997. In just a short period since moving up from the Division II level, the Phoenix have experienced some memorable and high profile success. The football team defeated Furman in 1999, a year in which the Paladins would tie for the SoCon crown and earn a berth in the NCAA Playoffs. The Phoenix baseball team defeated national power the University of Miami in two of three games this season and also beat the Hurricanes in 1999, a year in which UM won the national championship.
Founded in 1889, Elon has experienced rapid growth in recent years. With an undergraduate enrollment of 4,160, Elon is North Carolina's second largest private university, trailing only Duke and having a larger undergraduate student body than Wake Forest.
We believe Elon will be a strong member of the Southern Conference, said Morrison. Elon has been a very competitive member of every conference in which they have belonged. Over the last 23 years, Elon has won 53 conference championships and had over 500 student-athletes named to all-conference teams.
The Southern Conference is an NCAA Division I athletics conference
consisting of 12 member institutions in the states of Georgia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia with headquarters in
Members include Appalachian State, College of Charleston, The Citadel, Davidson, East Tennessee State, Furman, Georgia Southern, UNC Greensboro, Chattanooga, Virginia Military Institute, Western Carolina and Wofford College.