The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference expanded for the second time in five years, as the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Greensburg’s Seton Hill University were officially introduced as the 17th and 18th full-time members at a press conference in Johnstown this afternoon.
“We are delighted to have been invited and to accept the invitation into the PSAC,” said Pitt-Johnstown Jem Spectar. “We look forward to the opportunities that this move will create for our outstanding student-athletes to compete against teams that are well known in our region.”
Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill had been members of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference since 2007. Pitt-Johnstown had competed as an independent prior to joining the WVIAC; Seton Hill was an NAIA member before transitioning into NCAA Division II in 2006.
“We are honored to be invited to join the PSAC,” said Seton Hill president JoAnne Boyle. “The conference offers a solid platform to strengthen our athletic program. We know Seton Hill students will continue to contribute positively to the conference and continue to excel in the classroom and on the athletic field.”
The WVIAC is on the verge of extinction after nine of the remaining 13 members voted to form their own conference – the Mountain East Conference – beginning next season.
“Given the recent announcement of several schools leaving the WVIAC after this year, we felt the time was right to consider Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill as full time members of the PSAC,” said PSAC Commissioner Steve Murray. “Our Board of Directors was unanimous in its support for adding both schools.”
Seton Hill had originally voted to join the Mountain East along with other the WVIAC football schools – Charleston, Concord, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Shepherd, West Liberty, West Virginia Wesleyan and West Virginia State. Wheeling Jesuit, which does not sponsor football, was invited into the league, along with two Ohio schools (Notre Dame and Urbana) and Virginia-Wise.
Pitt-Johnstown had been on the outside looking in with the other non-football WVIAC schools left behind. Of the remaining four WVIAC schools – Alderson-Broaddus, Bluefield State, Davis and Elkins, and Ohio Valley – only Bluefield State is without a conference. Alderson-Broaddus, Davis and Elkins and Ohio Valley – are reportedly planning to join the newly formed Great Midwest Athletic Conference next season.
“In today’s college athletics, proper conference alignment is critical,” said Pitt-Johnstown athletic director and wrestling coach Pat Pecora. “Our move to join the PSAC is a huge step in the progression of Pitt-Johnstown athletics.”
Another factor in both schools accepting invitations to the PSAC was travel. Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill routinely faced long trips for conference contests in the WVIAC.
“Travel time will be enormously reduced for athletes,” said Seton Hill athletic director Chris Snyder. “Typical five-to-six hour trips will be reducted to three-to-four hour trips.”
This marks the second time the PSAC has expanded from their original 14 schools –the schools of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Gannon University and Mercyhurst University joined the PSAC in 2008, leaving the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after 13 years in the Michigan-based league.
“Adding Seton Hill and Pitt-Johnstown makes sense for us on for a conference on so many different levels,” said Dr. David L. Soltz, Bloomsburg University president and chair of the PSAC Board of Directors. “Both are outstanding academic institutions and their history of success will fit in nicely with our current philosophies of balancing athletics and academics.”
The PSAC becomes the largest conference in Division II; only three other conferences – the GLIAC, the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) and the Northeast 10 – have 16 full-time members.
Creighton Rabs covers the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for pingroof.com. He is neither affiliated with nor employed by the PSAC nor its member institutions.