Photo | Courtesy of Spring Hill College
The 2020-21 academic year was very quiet for athletics at Spring Hill College (SHC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, entire seasons for some sports were cancelled while other schedules were reduced to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
However, it has been busy as of late inside the offices at the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center. The biggest news involves the opportunity for the Badgers to receive national exposure on television.
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and ESPN recently announced that a multi-year rights agreement had been reached that would feature SIAC football and basketball games through 2027.
Spring Hill joined the SIAC after becoming a National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division II member. Many of its varsity teams compete in the SIAC, including men and women’s basketball. The Badgers football program was disbanded in 1941.
“This is exciting news for the SIAC conference members and Spring Hill College,” SHC Athletic Director Joe Niland told Lagniappe. “Although geared more toward our football playing members, it does include exposure for our basketball programs as well.
“I commend Commissioner (Gregory) Moore in expanding the SIAC brand by securing this agreement. Hopefully, in the future ESPN will air more SIAC offerings.”
Founded in 1913, the SIAC is composed of 13 Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Badgers’ in-state rivals are Miles College, Stillman College and Tuskegee University.
According to the new contract, starting this fall at least 22 football games across ESPNU and ESPN+ will be featured — including the SIAC Football Championship. ESPN will also have exclusive rights to all men and women’s basketball championship preliminary rounds on ESPN+, along with the SIAC men and women’s basketball championship games on ESPN networks.
“We are very proud to both continue and broaden our media relationship with ESPN to provide the SIAC with the best and most meaningful opportunity to showcase our member institutions and student-athletes on both ESPN networks and streaming platforms,” Commissioner Moore told the media. “We also appreciate ESPN’s commitment to our league, which will enable us to generate exciting live game content and produce compelling complementary programming for our fans.”
ESPN is already set to showcase the SIAC during the opening week of the 2021 college football season with the inaugural Red Tails Classic. This is a college football event launched by ESPN Events to showcase HBCUs. The inaugural game will feature Tuskegee and Fort Valley State University on Sunday, September 5, at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
Spring Hill won the SIAC Commissioner’s Trophy for its women’s sports in 2018-19 after capturing titles in cross county, volleyball and softball. SHC also holds affiliate membership in the Gulf South Conference in the sports of men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s golf.
Senft to lead beach volleyball
Spring Hill has named 2021 Badger alumna Sarah Senft as its next head coach of beach volleyball and assistant coach for court volleyball. She returns home to The Hill after a highly successful court and beach career with the Badgers where she earned eight letters — four in court and four in beach.
“This is a surreal moment for me,” Senft told the media. “I am excited to continue my Badger volleyball career as a coach. I feel very grateful because Spring Hill College has meant so much to me. Our indoor and beach teams are both very successful, and I am lucky to be able to work with Coach (Peggy) Martin to continue that success.”
Senft was a first-team member of the SIAC All-Conference Court Volleyball squad as a freshman along with appearing on the SIAC Commissioner’s All-Academic Team in her sophomore, junior and senior campaigns.
“I am really thrilled to add Sarah to our staff,” said Martin, SHC’s Director of Volleyball and court volleyball head coach. “She has experienced firsthand what it takes to be a student-athlete on The Hill and succeeded at it at a very high level both indoors and in the sand.
“Because of her love for Spring Hill College, she will be highly valued in the process of recruiting student-athletes to The Hill and will be able to share the expectations of being part of the Badger volleyball culture with them.”
Senft holds the SHC career record for beach volleyball wins with 70, and the program’s seventh best career winning percentage at .574. She was a member of the National Runner-Up Sandy Badgers team at the 2021 American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Small College Championships in NCAA Division II, as well as the third-place Badger squads of 2018 and 2019.
“Her youthful enthusiasm for the emerging sport of beach volleyball is a key component of her abilities to lead the program and to maintain the program’s competitiveness while moving it forward,” Martin said.
In 2018 and 2019, Senft was a key component of the Badgers’ run to consecutive SIAC regular season and tournament championships, as well as the first NCAA South Regional Tournament appearances for SHC court volleyball.
Saraland native hired
SHC head coach Karen McConico has announced the hiring of Sydney Westry as assistant coach for women’s basketball. A native of Saraland, Westry joins the Badgers following two seasons under head coach Billy Evans at Martin Methodist College (now the University of Tennessee Southern), and two seasons as a staff assistant at NCAA Division I Troy University.
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to continue doing what I love in a city that means so much to me,” Westry told the media. “I am energized and eager to join the Spring Hill College community, and want to thank Athletic Director Joe Niland and Coach McConico for the opportunity of a lifetime.”
During her four-year playing career at the University of Mobile, Westry played in 118 contests as a guard for the Lady Rams, averaging 4.3 points, 2.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per contest. In 2014 and 2017, Westry helped guide the Lady Rams to two Southern States Athletic Conference tournament championships and NAIA National Tournament berths.
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