The familiar becomes the unfamiliar. At least for the first season when Ohio Valley University becomes a full-fledged member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference in the fall of 2013.
Coaches representing the Fighting Scots' athletic programs are not only spending the better part of the week preparing for the arrival of student-athletes to campus, but also trying to grasp the news that the school will leave the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference following the completion of the 2012-13 academic year.
"Everything was kind of routine, but that is all going to change," OVU men's basketball coach Mike Snell said. "Everybody is a little leery of change, but it will work out."
OVU joins WVIAC brethren Alderson-Broaddus and Davis & Elkins in making the jump to the G-MAC, which coincides with the announcement that 12 colleges in West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia formed an all-sports athletic conference (Mountain East Conference). Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill also are exiting the WVIAC as they seek membership into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
The WVIAC is essentially dead once next year's spring sports season draws to a close. The Mid-Ohio Valley will feel the impact since it annually plays host to the conference tournament in softball at Jackson Park in Vienna.
"Ever since they've been playing that tournament in Vienna, I've been involved either as a spectator, volunteer, worker or coach - it's going to be sad to see it leave because we had a great tournament right here in our backyard," OVU softball coach Rob Graham said. "I don't know what the G-MAC has in store, but maybe Vienna can even put in a bid for that."
Adjusting to extended road trips is one issue confronting the OVU athletic department. Instead of setting aside two hours to arrive at most locations within the WVIAC, a few G-MAC destinations such as Kentucky Wesleyan (Owensboro, Ky.) and Trevecca Nazarene (Nashville, Tenn.) will require overnight stays.
"A lot of these schools in the G-MAC are Christian-based like us and they don't play on Sundays," Graham said. "We'll probably play a lot more games on Friday and Saturday where we will have to travel either on Thursday night or Friday morning."
What the transition to a new league will do for OVU, especially in men's and women's basketball, is create more flexibility in scheduling. In its current format, the Fighting Scots are required to play 22 of their 26 regular-season games against conference opponents.
Even though expansion is being pursued, G-MAC membership will consist of nine schools when the fall of 2013 arrives.
"We will be able to do a little more with our non-conference scheduling and play some teams we haven't played before - maybe we can go to a tournament elsewhere out of conference," OVU women's basketball coach David Wadlington said.
Classes at OVU begin next Tuesday, so as student-athletes get settled on campus they will attend meetings related to not only NCAA rules and regulations and eligibility, but also informed of the conference move.
"I don't know much about the G-MAC, but what I do understand is that it gives us new possibilities," OVU men's soccer coach Dan Lyons said. "The schools are predominantly private and Christian-based, and for us that seems to be a good fit because of who we are and what we consider important."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org