Written by Chris Pendleton and Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Southern Virginia University Athletic Director Scott Y. Doxey today announced that the university's football program will join the New Jersey Athletic Conference effective July 2014.
Southern Virginia's addition to the conference became official following successful votes on the university's membership application by both the NJAC Presidents Council and the league's Board of Athletic Administrators.
"The New Jersey Athletic Conference is proud to welcome Southern Virginia University as the newest affiliate football member of our conference," said NJAC Commissioner Terry Small. "Our membership is excited about the addition of Southern Virginia's program in the 2014 season, and very thankful to President Paul K. Sybrowsky, Vice President Doxey, and Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald for their work in helping to make this affiliation possible."
Currently in its first year of provisional NCAA Division III membership, Southern Virginia University announced last June that it will become a full member of the Capital Athletic Conference effective July 1, 2013. While the Capital Athletic Conference provides a competitive home for 12 of Southern Virginia's 13 sanctioned varsity sports, the CAC does not currently sponsor football.
"The New Jersey Athletic Conference is a great fit for our football program and we are thrilled to be joining the conference as an affiliate member," said Doxey. "This affiliate opportunity, along with full membership in the CAC, allows us to offer a full D-III athletic experience that is focused on academics and the overall educational experience of our scholar-athletes."
Founded in 1985, the New Jersey Athletic Conference is currently in its 28th season as an all-sport conference sponsoring championships in 19 varsity sports. The NJAC ranks as one of the strongest athletic conferences in the NCAA Division III, with member schools capturing 43 national championships over the past 15 years.
The addition of Southern Virginia's football program in 2014-15 will increase the NJAC's football membership to eight institutions, including full-conference members Kean University (N.J.), Montclair State University (N.J.), Rowan University (N.J.), The College of New Jersey (N.J.) and William Paterson University (N.J.), as well as three affiliate football members in State University of New York College at Cortland (N.Y.), Morrisville State College (N.Y.), and Southern Virginia University (Va.).
"Becoming a football member of the NJAC will facilitate scheduling, while allowing us to build new competitive rivalries with fellow conference members," said Doxey. "It will also provide our football scholar-athletes a common goal—competing for a conference championship."
Southern Virginia's ten-year old football program competed as an independent member of the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association from 2003-11, producing three NAIA All-Americans and 20 NAIA All-Independent selections during that time. In their first year of provisional D-III membership this past fall, the Knights competed in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and recorded the program's second-highest single-season win total (5), going 5-6 under fourth-year Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald, including three consecutive wins to closeout the season.
"The NJAC is a top football conference within Division III," said Fitzgerald. "We're excited to become a member of such an elite group of teams and we hope to be competitive right away. Our players will have a chance to compete for a conference championship to earn a bid to the national tournament, while gaining the finest liberal arts education available in an LDS environment."