December 16, 2015 — Three of Bryan College’s teams will represent the Appalachian Athletic Conference in the 2016-17 NAIA Southeastern Challenge, which is a new inter-conference contest. “Inter-conference challenges are always unique experiences for our student-athletes,” said Bryan College Athletic Director Taylor Hasty. “It is a privilege for us to be included and we look forward to representing not only Bryan College but also the AAC.”
Beginning during the 2016-17 season, representatives from the Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC), Mid-South Conference, Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) & The Sun Conference will square off in the NAIA Southeastern Challenge.
The regular-season series will feature competition in the sports of men’s & women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s & women’s basketball, men’s & women’s tennis, baseball and softball—with a conference winner being crowned annually based on the collective winning percentage of its participating teams across all nine sports.
The teams representing the Lions are women’s volleyball, women’s basketball, and softball. Reinhardt University (Ga.) will have four teams participating in the challenge: women’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball, and men’s tennis. Tennessee Wesleyan is the only other school from the AAC who will be competing in more than one sport: men’s basketball and baseball. View the entire list here.
The inter-conference event will bolster relationships between these neighboring conferences, while allowing for regular-season matchups of top NAIA programs from across the region, something noted by each commissioner in joining the partnership.
“We, in the AAC, are excited to be a part of this inaugural inter-conference event,” said John Sullivan, AAC Commissioner. “It gives some of our best teams an opportunity to compete against the best teams from our neighboring conferences and exposes them to competition that they probably haven’t seen before. We are looking forward to this first year’s effort and to building on what we learn in the future.”
Sullivan’s sentiments were echoed by Mid-South Conference Commissioner Eric Ward, who said, “The Mid-South Conference is honored to be included in the inaugural NAIA Southeastern Challenge. Our participating teams are excited about and looking forward to competing against the best teams in the AAC, The Sun Conference and SSAC.”
SSAC Commissioner Mike Hall noted the benefits of the challenge to the conference’s member institutions, while recognizing the work of his fellow commissioners in bringing the event together, stating, “The SSAC teams participating in this inaugural challenge are very excited about improving their non-conference schedules and increasing their postseason profiles. Personally, I am very grateful to my fellow commissioners for their efforts in pulling this together for 2016-17.”
The Sun Conference Commissioner Mark Pope mentioned the student-athlete experience as part of the appeal of the NAIA Southeastern Challenge, saying, “The Sun Conference is proud to partner with our fellow southeastern conferences to create this exciting event. What a great opportunity for our student-athletes! We look forward to showcasing the best in competition and sportsmanship.”
The event will debut in September 2016, with Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) hosting a four-team men’s soccer invitational on Sept. 3-4, the City of Montgomery presenting a four-team women’s soccer event on Sept. 2-3 and Union (Ky.) organizing an eight-team volleyball invitational on Sept. 2-3.
The winter season will feature two sets of basketball challenges, with the NAIA Division I conferences—the SSAC and Mid-South Conference—and the NAIA Division II leagues—the AAC and The Sun Conference—competing independently.
Union will host the six-team NAIA Division II men’s basketball event on Nov. 3-5, while Martin Methodist (Tenn.) will sponsor the six-team NAIA Division I men’s basketball invitational on Nov. 17-19. Campbellsville (Ky.) will welcome six NAIA Division I women’s basketball teams on Dec. 17-19, while St. Thomas (Fla.) will open its gym to its NAIA Division II women’s basketball counterparts on Dec. 28-30.
Faulkner (Ala.) will kick off the spring events, when it hosts four baseball programs on Feb. 2-4, 2017. USC Beaufort (S.C.) will then welcome eight softball teams on Feb. 16-18, while SCAD Savannah (Ga.) plays host to four men’s and four women’s tennis programs.
The complete 2016-17 NAIA Southeastern Challenge schedule will be released in early 2016 after game times and matchups are determined by the respective host conferences and schools.
Written by Wesley Sanders ’15, sports information director.