by Max Brantley
Football had been in the works for some time, though delayed. Many alums of the school griped about the decision. Today, the school announced formation of a new conference in which Hendrix will play. It is to begin competition in 2012-13, but Hendrix won't play football until fall 2013.
The conference of Division III teams (no scholarships) will include the likes of Rhodes, Sewanee, Millsaps and Centre. (Too bad Richard Allin is no longer around to chronicle the historic Sewanee Tiger-Hendrix Warrior battle.) Football has long been defended by Hendrix President Tim Cloyd as an enrollment builder. Hendrix also will be adding women's lacrosse, with games to begin in spring 2014. In a letter to Hendrix supporters, Cloyd wrote:
Why did the Board of Trustees decide to do this? Many outstanding high school students simply won’t consider attending a college that doesn’t offer football. As Hendrix College continues to grow and broaden its academic programs, we do not want to miss the opportunity to bring these great students to Hendrix and enrich the experience of all Hendrix students. We are excited about adding new sports to the lineup, but remain committed to supporting our existing athletics programs. All our student athletes are important; we will not allow one sport to overshadow others.
From a Q&A referring to the year Hendrix ended football:
Q. What will you do with all those “Undefeated since 1961” T-shirts in the bookstore?
A. They are sure to become collectors’ items; get yours now before the price escalates!
The news release:
Hendrix College will join seven fellow NCAA Division III institutions in forming a new athletic conference. Spanning six states, the new conference also will include Berry College in Georgia, Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama, Centre College in Kentucky, Millsaps College in Mississippi, Oglethorpe University in Georgia, and Rhodes College and Sewanee — The University of the South in Tennessee.
All but Berry are current members of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC). The seven members announced their intention to leave the SCAC effective July 1, 2012, at the 2011 annual meeting of the SCAC. The new conference will begin competition during the 2012-2013 academic year.
The new conference is being formed to foster athletic competition and cooperation among academically selective, residential liberal arts colleges located in the southeastern region of the United States. The geographic focus will result in reduced travel time and costs, while still allowing for a strong conference of like-minded institutions, all of which integrate competitive athletics into the whole of the student’s educational experience.
“Hendrix is honored by the invitation to join our historic rivals and academic peers in an exciting new era of intercollegiate competition,” said Hendrix President J. Timothy Cloyd. “The new conference will more closely resemble the makeup of our academic consortium, the Associated Colleges of the South, further ensuring the continuity of mission in our academic and athletic programs.”
Given the success of the SCAC over the last 20 years, the decision to start anew was difficult. Formed in 1991, the SCAC grew out of the College Athletic Conference, which was formed in 1962 by three of the colleges in the new conference (Centre, Rhodes and Sewanee). The new conference will continue in this same tradition of academic and athletic excellence.
As it moves to the new conference, Hendrix will introduce two new sports — men’s football and women’s lacrosse. Following a year-long feasibility study, the Board of Trustees authorized the new sports in 2008. As discussions of a new conference progressed, the Board asked the administration to develop a plan to start both sports in the 2013-14 academic year.
The new athletic conference and new teams will continue the College’s commitment to NCAA Division III competition. NCAA Division III is a non-scholarship division, meaning student athletes do not receive financial assistance for their participation in sports. Other NCAA Division III schools include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, Washington & Lee University, and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
“In NCAA Division III, student athletes at Hendrix have had an extraordinary opportunity to compete with peers who share their mutual love of sportsmanship and scholarship,” President Cloyd said. “As a result, they have become leaders on campus and, as alumni, often single out their intercollegiate athletics experience as a hallmark of their Hendrix education. The new conference will continue this life-changing tradition for our student athletes.”
Jay Gardiner, who currently serves as athletics director at Oglethorpe, will serve as the new conference’s interim commissioner. Oglethorpe president Lawrence Schall, who currently chairs the SCAC executive committee, will serve as convener of the conference’s Presidential Council during the 2011-2012 academic year. Brian Chafin, athletics director at Centre, will serve as convener of the Athletics Director Council in 2011-2012.
The new conference held its first official meeting the afternoon of Tuesday, June 7 in Atlanta, Ga., immediately following the conclusion of the 2011 annual SCAC meeting.