When Lagniappe first reported on Spring Hill College’s plan to move its sports program in a new direction, only two Jesuit centers of higher learning were not part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Now, thanks to a recent ruling, the Badgers are inching closer to joining their brethren.
The NCAA’s Membership Committee has determined SHC has “successfully completed” Candidacy Membership (year two) and recommends the Badgers advance to Provisional Membership (year three). This places the school on the edge of obtaining full NCAA Division II status.
“We are excited and very pleased to be taking this next important step in the NCAA membership process,” SHC President Dr. Christopher Puto said. “This represents a great deal of hard work by not only our athletics staff but many other offices on campus as well, and it is rewarding to see everything moving forward so well. We are looking forward to successfully fulfilling all requirements as this final provisional year progresses.”
The transition from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to the NCAA has not been without problems. The Badgers had to repeat some steps before moving ahead.
“Last year, the NCAA Membership Committee asked us to repeat Candidacy Year Two of the membership process to give us time for several new campus personnel with direct compliance responsibilities to have adequate time get up to speed with NCAA requirements,” Jim Hall, SHC director of athletics, told Lagniappe.
“In essence, that means that Spring Hill College is going through a four-year transition process instead of the minimum three-year process it could have taken. I think we were able to make excellent use of this past year in really refining our campus compliance operations and preparing ourselves for the year ahead,” he said.
During the upcoming academic year, Spring Hill’s 16 varsity teams will continue to play NCAA Division II conference and nonconference regular season games. However, they are not eligible for post-season action until they obtain full membership status in 2017-18.
This has not stopped Spring Hill from finding success. In the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, SHC has excelled. The women’s softball team has gone undefeated the last two seasons in league play, while the men’s baseball team is 34-3 during that stretch.
In women’s volleyball, the SHC club was 19-1 in the SIAC last season. In softball, Caroline Sagrera was the league’s Starting Pitcher of the Year while Alison Sellers-Cook was honored as Coach of the Year. The Badgers also are part of the Gulf South Conference for men and women’s soccer plus women’s golf.
The NCAA panel voted to advance four schools into active Division II membership, including Mississippi College. The others advancing with SHC into the final year of the membership process are California State University, San Marcos; Concordia University Irvine; Concordia University Portland; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Florida; and Oklahoma Baptist University. Much like Spring Hill, Auburn University at Montgomery has been asked to repeat its first year of the process.
“So many people on our campus have made a tremendous effort this year to ensure that we met all of the NCAA’s expectations,” Hall said. “The offices of admissions, registrar, financial aid, business, advancement, advising and academic success have been tremendous partners in this institutional transition. I can’t thank everyone involved with this process enough for all of their dedication to making this year a success.”
Once Spring Hill is a full member, the remaining Jesuit team not in the NCAA will be Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Wolf Pack squads participate in the NAIA.
Some former and current baseball players from the University of South Alabama are having quite a summer. Jordan Patterson, who earned All-American honors at USA, played in the Triple-A All-Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It is a big honor to even be mentioned as being an All-Star,” said Patterson, an outfielder who leads the Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League with a .314 batting average. “This isn’t my award at all; it goes to my teammates, coaches, family and everybody who has helped me.”
Meanwhile, two of the eight current USA players taking part in summer leagues also made all-star appearances. Zach McMullen, named to the Florida Collegiate Summer League North team, is 1-1 in five starts for the Leesburg Lightning and has not allowed an earned run in 18.2 innings. Brendan Donovan, picked for the Valley Baseball League North roster, leads the New Market Rebels with a .333 batting average.
● University of Mobile’s Taylor Clinkenbeard earned first-team NAIA Softball All-American honors. The senior outfielder started all 49 games, hitting .401. She led the Rams in average, runs, hits, walks and steals.
● Kevin Hill left South Alabama as one of its most decorated players. The senior pitcher has added another honor, being named third-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He became the first Sun Belt player to earn Pitcher of the Year twice, and was named the league’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
● USA outfielder Travis Swaggerty was selected as a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in baseball. He led the Jaguars with a .303 batting average, and was named to the NCAA Tallahassee All-Regional Team hitting .412 with a double, triple, home run, two RBIs, four runs scored and one stolen base.
● South Alabama women’s golfer MacKenzie Peyton had a surprise partner at the U.S. Women’s Open qualifier at Hermitage Country Club in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia. Because of a rain delay, the pairings were moved around and she ended up with World Golf Hall of Fame member Laura Davies of England. Peyton finished tied for 19th with a two-round total of 156, while Davies was ninth with 145.