Associates to Help SCAC Keep NCAA AQ
After losing a large chunk of its membership to the newly formed Southern Athletic Association (SAA), the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) men's lacrosse league was at risk of losing its Pool A (automatic qualifying) access to the NCAA tournament in 2015. The recent announcement about the addition of five associate members in '14 will keep the conference solvent for the foreseeable future.
The SAA, which will start its first season of play in '13 and earn AQ status in 2015, plucked six teams – Birmingham-Southern, Centre, Hendrix, Millsaps, Oglethorpe, Rhodes and Sewanee – from the SCAC, leaving the league with just four teams for this coming season – Colorado College, Centenary (La.), Dallas and Southwestern.
Because there is a two-year grandfather clause for AQ leagues that dip below the mandatory seven-team minimum, the SCAC would keep its bid through the '14 campaign. The addition of the five associate members – Ferrum, Greensboro, Huntingdon, Methodist and Piedmont – in 2014 makes it a moot point.
The biggest winner in all this? It would seem to be Colorado College. Although the Tigers were upended by Birmingham-Southern for the SCAC bid last year, CC is still the standard-bearer for the league and having continued access to Pool A is crucial for that western school.
It will also be a boon for the five associate schools. They are all traditional members of the USA South Conference (Huntingdon signed on this year), a league that was creeping toward an AQ, but was stung by Christopher Newport's move to the CAC next year. With an auto-bid unlikely anytime soon, gaining access this quickly is a definite upgrade. And if the USA South does find two more league schools to add in men's lacrosse, they can gain an AQ immediately.
The biggest dilemma facing the SCAC? Operating in a conference that stretches from North Carolina to Colorado (1,600 miles) is always going to present logistical and budgetary issues. The league has mitigated those problems, however, by splitting the SCAC into two divisions. The five USA South reps will form one while the four western schools will comprise the other, with the top team from each meeting at a rotating championship site.
A peripheral impact of this move could be a severe depletion in the number of Pool B (independent) bids to the NCAA tournament starting in 2015. With the SAA coming online and the removal of the USA South schools from the independent roll, Pool B bids could drop to only one (there were three last season), depending on what new programs pop up between now and then.