CENTRAL — It’s been a tumultuous road, but they’re in.
After more than three years of rejections, appeals and provisional statuses, Southern Wesleyan University is officially a member of the NCAA Division II competing in Conference Carolinas.
“This process of patience and resilience has made us stronger,” said university president Dr. Todd Voss during a press conference July 20. “It’s made us leaner, more agile and more competitive than ever.”
With the university’s new status, Warrior athletic teams will now be eligible for post-season game-play — something that had previously been denied to the teams during their years of application and “provisional” status.
“Look out world,” said Voss.
SWU originally applied for NCAA Division II membership in June 2013. With that application came an invitation to join Conference Carolinas, headed up by conference commissioner Dr. Alan Patterson.
To the university’s dismay, the NCAA Membership Committee denied their application one month later.
“That was rough,” said Chris Williams, SWU athletic director. “When that rejection letter came, it was hard. But everything happens in its own time. We redoubled our efforts.”
SWU appealed the NCAA’s decision and was finally granted into “Candidacy Year One” in September 2013 and the following January, SWU representatives were able to attend their first NCAA National Convention.
Then another bump in the road: In July 2014, instead of moving SWU onto Candidacy Year Two, the NCAA membership Committee instead ruled that the university should repeat year one. Luckily, the Management Council overturned that decision and allowed SWU to advance on.
In July 2015, SWU moved up to “Provisional status,” which marked the final year of the membership process before finally receiving full approval this year.
When asked if the (many) road blocks the university encountered were typical in obtaining NCAA status, Williams was skeptical.
“I don’t know that it’s typical,” said Williams. “Now, standing here today, I find that maybe it’s not typical and maybe we’ve gone through it because of the story and the platform that we now have, that we can share Christ through the moment and that being a Christian isn’t flat and easy and awesome all of the time and that our university will continue to go through adverse times, our athletic department will as well.
“However, we will bond together as Team SWU, we will rise, we will be strengthened and we will continue to give God the glory in all of those things — even in the world of athletics,” he added.
SWU will join the 12 member schools in Conference Carolinas including Barton College, Belmont Abbey College, Converse College, Emmanuel College, Erskine College, King University, Lees-McRae College, Limestone, University of Mt. Olive, North Greenville University and Pfeiffer University.
“The much anticipated membership of Southern Wesleyan University is an attractive addition to Conference Carolinas and NCAA Division II,” said Patterson. “The Warriors have demonstrated the competitive spirit, sportsmanship and priority of positive student athlete experiences that distinguish all our members during the last two years of competition within Conference Carolinas. We welcome Southern Wesleyan as full members of Conference Carolinas and NCAA Division II.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.