The Florida College Falcons will join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) effective July 1, 2017. Florida College's athletic director, Pat Todd, led the application process to join both the NAIA and SSAC, and President Payne is confident membership will be a benefit to the institution.
"This new athletic affiliation will help raise the quality of our athletic programs for our students, not only in the level of competition, but also in terms of NAIA's emphasis on academics and character," Payne said.
The NAIA is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. Also joining the association in 2017 are six other colleges: Cleary University, College of St. Joseph, Life Pacific College, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Rust College and University of Maine at Fort Kent. Four of the new members were previously affiliated with the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), while the other two came from the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and NCAA.
"We're excited to welcome these seven outstanding institutions to the NAIA," Jim Carr, NAIA president and chief executive officer, said. "Each of these schools value character-driven athletics and are a great fit for our association."
NAIA schools must meet membership criteria that include financial stability, sports sponsorship, accreditation and a commitment to character-driven athletics. In line with these ideals, Florida College athletics are consistently dedicated to developing the whole person and representing the college's mission with excellence.
Florida College will also join the SSAC, a conference within the NAIA with 10 member institutions across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The conference sponsors 17 intercollegiate sports, culminating in 17 conference championship events held annually throughout the southeastern region of the United States. The SSAC Board of Presidents unanimously approved the addition of Florida College and Stallman College, with competition to begin in all sports during the 2018-19 academic year.
"We are very excited to welcome Florida College into the SSAC for the 2018-2019 academic year," Mike Hall, SSAC commissioner, said. "They have strong campus leadership and some excellent athletic teams that will be very competitive in the SSAC. Florida College also has a similar mission and vision in promoting a Christian environment and education that will fit very well in the SSAC."
This transition to the NAIA comes on the heels of an outstanding season in the USCAA. Florida College was the only school in the association to receive a national bid in every sport and had 18 All-American student-athletes in 2017. Todd was named the USCAA Athletic Director of the Year, and Florida College received third place in the Director's Cup standings. Two former Florida College Falcons, Kenny Moorer and Kerri Mitchell, were also inducted into the USCAA Hall of Fame at the annual awards dinner. The Falcons will continue to compete in the USCAA for the 2017-2018 academic year and begin competition in the NAIA and SSAC for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Athletics programs at Florida College will continue to grow and change in the years ahead, but each new development will be centered on the college's mission.
"I am confident that our new affiliation will be a tremendous benefit to us," Payne said. "Florida College, the NAIA and the SSAC share high standards for academic rigor and the character of student-athletes. I look forward to seeing how this union will enhance our athletic programs and student life."
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