Elon University will leave the Southern Conference and join the Colonial Athletic Association for the 2014-15 academic year. The change in athletics conference affiliation was approved by the Elon Board of Trustees and announced Thursday by President Leo M. Lambert.
College of Charleston announced earlier it was joining CAA. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are heading for the Sun Belt Conference. Davidson is leaving for the Atlantic 10 Conference.
UTC remains in the Southern Conference with Western Carolina, UNC Greensboro, Citadel, Furman, Wofford and Samford.
"In a time of great change in the collegiate athletics landscape, the Colonial Athletic Association offers a great match with our strategic plans for Elon's future," Lambert said. "The CAA will allow our student-athletes to compete with peers at many excellent universities on the Eastern seaboard. We will have the opportunity to continue competition with fine schools in the Carolinas and Virginia while raising Elon's profile in the large metropolitan areas of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast – areas where many of our students, alumni and prospective students call home."
Wes Elingburg, chair of Elon's Board of Trustees, called the conference change historic. "Elon has a proud history of athletics success and we are excited to share Elon's story with new friends in the Colonial Athletic Association," Elingburg said. "This is an important next step in confirming Elon's position as a university of national prominence."
Officials said, "Elon will make the move to the CAA after more than a decade of success on the field and in the classroom in the Southern Conference. Elon has won 18 Southern Conference regular-season and tournament titles. Twelve Phoenix student-athletes have earned Southern Conference Player of the Year recognition, while Elon head coaches have earned 19 Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors. Nationally, 25 Elon student-athletes have received All-American honors and 25 student-athletes have earned Academic All-American recognition. Since joining the Southern Conference, 17 Elon teams and individuals have made NCAA postseason appearances, while teams and individuals have appeared in national rankings more than 20 times."
"The Colonial Athletic Association will provide the next great challenge in the growth of Elon athletics," said Dave Blank, director of athletics. "By emphasizing continuous improvement with our student-athletes and coaches, Elon has risen to a position of strength in SoCon competition. We are equally proud of the leadership Elon has provided in academic excellence in the conference. The CAA is a great fit at an exciting time in sports at Elon."
Blank said Elon will look to continue existing athletics rivalries and build new ones, especially with CAA members in the Carolinas and Virginia. "We look forward to continuing competition with former SoCon member College of Charleston and with UNC-Wilmington, and to expanding our schedules with competition against James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary, as well as with schools further north."
Colonial Athletic Association Commissioner Tom Yeager said the CAA is thrilled Elon has accepted the offer of membership.
"We have been selectively searching for highly respected institutions that share a common vision of institutional excellence and a commitment to the success of the young men and women participating in our athletic programs," Yeager said. "Elon fits our model and will immediately become a valuable conference partner helping to elevate each individual institution.”