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Loyola University joins Southern States Athletics Conference

Loyola press release - September 28, 2009

In a move to enhance its athletic program, Loyola University New Orleans will join the Southern States Athletics Conference in competition starting in 2010.

Loyola is currently a member of the Gulf Coast Athletics Conference within Division 1 of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Dr. Michael Giorlando, Loyola’s athletics and wellness director, said the move from the GCAC to the SSAC is in alignment with the university’s future plans for athletics.

“Leaving the GCAC will be difficult primarily because of the great relationships and rivalries we have established during our time in that league,” said Giorlando. “However, as we expand our programs, a move to the SSAC gives our teams a better opportunity to compete for conference championships which improves the overall experience we can offer our student-athletes.”

Earlier this year, the university set goals to enhance the athletics program in its strategic plan, Loyola 2012. Among these were increasing the number of intercollegiate sports offerings and enhancing the athletic program’s regional reputation. During the summer, the Wolfpack added women’s tennis to its team line up, bringing the number of sponsored varsity sports to 11. Plans are also underway to add men’s tennis for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Loyola President Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., said he is certain that enhancing the athletic program will return benefits for the university as a whole.

“Loyola has set some ambitious goals for its continued growth and development as a university,” Wildes said. “Athletics is an integral part of the total educational process and corresponds to our Jesuit philosophy of educating the whole person. By enhancing our program, we hope to attract more students who have the desire to compete in a high-quality athletic program that places a strong emphasis on academic standards. I believe this will in turn result in higher retention rates and a stronger sense of camaraderie for the university.”

The SSAC announced today its increase in membership and the restructuring of its conference play effective for the 2010-11 academic year. In addition to Loyola, other institutions joining the conference are Belhaven College, Spring Hill College, University of Mobile, Truett-McConnell College, and William Carey University, increasing the SSAC membership to 16.

For the SSAC, the increase in membership allows it to restructure its conference into two divisions. Belhaven, Loyola, Spring Hill, Mobile and William Carey will join Auburn University Montgomery and Faulkner University to make up the new division. The remaining existing Southern States schools, along with Truett-McConnell, will make up the second division. Each team will play their regular season conference games within its division, with season-ending championships in each sport bringing together qualifying teams from both divisions.

One advantage to the expansion is that it increases championship opportunities in 13 sports and ensures automatic qualifiers for each. There will be enough teams competing that each sport in the Southern States competition will have at least one automatic bid for the NAIA national tournament, and multiple bids in most team sports.

Dr. Paul Conn, chair of the SSAC Board of Presidents, said the quality of the new members and the sports sponsorships they bring, are a tremendous benefit to the conference.

“It is a genuine pleasure to welcome these five fine institutions to our conference,” said Conn. “Each provides top-quality education to students, and each is committed to the student-athlete as a part of the total educational enterprise. These are schools that understand the priority of academic life for student athletes. They will be a great fit for our conference.”

More about Loyola

Chartered in 1912, Loyola University New Orleans, is the largest Catholic, Jesuit university in the South, and combines the academic excellence of its faculty and programs with an ideal class size that fosters individual student success. Located on the famous St. Charles Avenue in Uptown New Orleans, Loyola is home to 4,910 students and sponsors 11 varsity sports. Loyola University is ranked as the 6th Best Master's University in the South in the 2010 edition of America's Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report and second in U.S. News & World Report's Great Schools, Great Prices category.

More about the SSAC

The aim of the Southern States Athletics Conference is to promote the development of athletics as an integral part of the educational offerings of member institutions by means of democratic participation at the conference level. The SSAC seeks membership only from accredited institutions that support this aim. The primary criteria for selection and encouragement of membership is an educational emphasis.

More about the NAIA

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is home to 25 conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada and offers 23 championships in 13 sports. Each conference houses NAIA member institutions dedicated to advancing character-driven intercollegiate athletics. Approximately 50,000 student-athletes participate at nearly 300 member colleges and universities.

For more information, contact Brett Simpson at bsimpson@loyno.edu or 504-864-7396.