WINCHESTER, Va. - Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons announced Wednesday afternoon that its Athletics Department has been offered and accepted membership in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
The Hornets 20-program department will become the 14th member of the ODAC on July 1, 2011 for six of its programs and July 1, 2012 for the remaining 14.
The six sports to move early: women's field hockey, men's lacrosse and men's and women's indoor and outdoor track & field, were all members of leagues other than the USA South. Those leagues have freed the Shenandoah teams to move into to the ODAC for the start of the next academic year.
The change in membership is the first for the department since it joined the USA South (nee Dixie) as an active member in July 1993.
SU joined the Colonial States Athletic Conference (then called Pennsylvania Athletic) in 1998 for men's lacrosse and the Middle Atlantic Conference for field hockey and men's and women's indoor and outdoor track & field in 2009.
"This is a great day for SU, our athletic department and especially for our student-athletes," stated Dr. Fitzsimmons. "I believe that SU's competitive athletic program and strong commitment to academics make us a good fit for the ODAC. I look forward to years of spirited competition with our ODAC colleagues."
The ODAC offer of membership completes a process that has existed unofficially or officially since the early 1980s.
By joining the ODAC, Shenandoah University cuts its average travel distance to conference schools by nearly 100 miles with football improving by 135 miles and women's lacrosse by 207.
The shortest trip that Shenandoah currently has to a USA South co-educational institution is 210 miles to Ferrum. Ten of the 13 ODAC schools are closer than the distance from SU to Ferrum and five are less than 150 miles from Winchester.
"We have enjoyed a significant history in the USA South, but we have always wanted to be affiliated with one conference for our 20 intercollegiate programs," Athletics Director Wayne Edwards said.
"The Old Dominion Athletic Conference provides that opportunity and is synonymous with academic and athletic excellence. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to become a full member of the ODAC and look forward to meaningful and collegial relationships with each of the other 13 schools in the conference. We are grateful to the ODAC presidents and athletics directors for their membership invitation, and to Commissioner Brad Bankston for his facilitation of the entire process.
"I want to thank Rita Wiggs, the commissioner of the USA South Athletic Conference, for her patience and professionalism during this process. We were open and honest with each other from the beginning, and this enabled the process to proceed smoothly and without dissension.
"We look forward to finishing our time in the USA South in a positive and constructive manner. I have tremendous respect for all of the USA South institutions, their athletics directors and staffs and appreciate their understanding our reasons for making this change in conference affiliation. Shenandoah will provide assistance in every possible way as the USA South works through this change in membership."