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Mustangs set to join new conference

080417AndyMeneely

Andy Meneely, shown here in a 2017 file photo, is entering his second year as MACU's athletic director.

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By David Gough
Sports Writer

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The United States Collegiate Athletic Association is home to 88 different schools.

Only 33 schools have belonged in one of its three conferences. As of now, six and maybe more will be joining a fourth conference and Mid-Atlantic Christian University is one of them.

Joining the Mustangs in the new Eastern Metro Athletic Conference so far is Johnson and Wales, Warren Wilson College, The Apprentice School, Clinton College and Stratford University.

“We’re basically building a conference for southern teams,” MACU athletic director Anthony Meneely said.

The Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Penn State University Athletic Conference and Yankee Small College Conference are all formed by schools in the northeast.

Talks of a possible new conference started around two years ago before Meneely took the job at the Elizabeth City school last summer. The perks of being able to create and join a conference, Meneely says, are undeniable.

“We started trying to build an alliance of schools that already regularly play each other,” Meneely said. “For the purpose of getting an automatic seed. If we win a conference tournament, we can get an automatic bid to the national tournament. That was the original intent of the development.”

The first year of the EMAC won’t have that effect right out of the gate. It’ll be at least a year before the conference will actually have its own schedule, but conference accolades will already be an item this coming season.

With the implementation of all-conference and academic all-conference teams, it can help a school promote itself more.

The hope is to have enough schools join to reach ten or more teams in the conference.

The future conference schedule played a big factor in the creation of the conference. Not only does it immediately add at least ten games to a season’s schedule, but it can help out with the travel load especially if more teams are added to the conference.

“That’s kind of been the biggest struggle for our school as an independent. Scheduling is a huge thing,” Meneely said. “You can also maybe play teams in your division twice and those further away just once.”

MACU will also be able to create rivalries with other schools with the guaranteed conference schedules, something that wasn’t easy to get with a full independent schedule.

One thing that Meneely and the other athletic directors are striving for is the building of sports programs that some schools don’t yet have. Not everyone has the exact same sports in their athletic program.

For instance, MACU will be starting women’s soccer and baseball programs this year, and two of the six EMAC schools currently don’t have a soccer program.

The new conference is encouraging each school to add whatever athletic programs they can.

“Hopefully, those other schools will go, ‘Hey, we can get into (that sport) at a conference level immediately,” Meneely said. “We’ll be able to build a lot of this together.”

MACU’s new women’s soccer and baseball programs will have limited schedules to start. The soccer team will likely play some 7v7 games, while the baseball team will likely play only ten games in its first year.

Meneely hopes to be able to add even more sports in the distant future including rowing, tennis, cross country, track & field and softball.

For most of the those, the matter of finding or creating a facility for them is in the way. With tennis, they may be able to get going with a new format that just needs two boys and two girls for both programs.

“It’s a growth process,” Meneely said. “Hopefully, we get this thing started and have other schools feel that this is a good thing to be a part of. It’s been a little slower than we anticipated, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

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