VIENNA - Hit like a ton of bricks, Ohio Valley University administrators were taken by surprise by Monday's announcement that nine members of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference were bolting for a new all-sports league beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.
"Clearly, we are sad - it feels like the rug has been pulled from under us," OVU director of athletics Dennis Cox said. "The West Virginia Conference is the second oldest Division II conference in the country and the second largest, and right now it seems to be falling apart."
The University of Charleston, Concord, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Seton Hill, Shepherd, West Liberty, West Virginia State and West Virginia Wesleyan are the schools exiting. Ultimately, those schools plan to expand the new conference to 12 teams. Its operations and name haven't been determined.
Fairmont State lines up against Glenville State in a football game in Glenville. Both schools will be leaving the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for a new all-sports league in time for the 2013-14 academic year. (Photo by Jay W. Bennett)
"There have been some issues in our conference for some time with the football schools wanting to go this way or that way," Cox said. "The conflict has become more and more evident the last year or so, but still there was no warning whatsoever."
Membership by the exiting schools will be sought in NCAA Division II and required documentation will be submitted to the NCAA before Dec. 1. Athletic schedules for the 2012-13 season will not be affected.
"Our conference, like any other conference in Division I or II is run by the presidents," Cox stated. "The presidents meet together all the time and know each other very well. They are supposed to seek and maintain harmony. And all of a sudden, it's not there."
Cox mentioned that OVU's new president Harold Shank is concerned and will proceed with caution as to the next step the school takes. Including OVU, six schools remain in the WVIAC. The other five are Alderson-Broaddus, Bluefield State, Davis & Elkins, Wheeling Jesuit and Pitt-Johnstown.
OVU, which has been a member of the WVIAC since becoming joining the Division II ranks in 1999, is currently in a holding pattern.
"We have to be careful - this is not something that we can jump all over right at this moment," Cox said. "The whole thing may blow up. It's happened before so to speak. So we will see."
The presidents of the schools leaving the WVIAC issued a statement describing how the creation of a new conference would be in their best interests.
"The intent of a new conference creates a solid foundation in terms of budgets and goals," the presidents said. "We strongly believe that a 12-member, all-sports conference creates a solid foundation for its membership.
"The investment required for an all-sports league will level the playing field for all of its member institutions while positioning its members for growth."
The Associated Press contributed to this story