(EDITOR’S NOTE: Tuesday, seven members of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, plus Berry College of Georgia officially withdrew from the league, effective after the 2011-12 athletic season, and formed a new eight-member NCAA Division III Conference. In a telephone interview Thursday from the SCAC spring meetings in Atlanta, Hendrix President J. Timothy Cloyd answered some questions by Log Cabin sports columnist David McCollum about the proposed move and its effect on Hendrix).
What will this move do for Hendrix?
Cloyd: It puts us in a situation that we will be competing with schools (Berry, Sewanee/University of the South, Rhodes, Centre, Millsaps, Birmingham Southern, Oglethorpe) more like us in terms of academics relative to athletics. Our student-athletes will not miss as much class time. All schools are within driving distance so we won’t have to fly to some contests or bus and fly. We can have round-robin play in all sports. Currently, we have division play in some sports, but not all, and there are significant travel costs. It’s a long way from Atlanta (Oglethorpe) to Colorado Springs or San Antonio (locations of current SCAC members Colorado College and Trinity).
What does it mean competing with “like-minded” institutions?
Cloyd: It means the relationship you place on athletics as part of the total academic experience. On the field, it plays out in that if you have institutions that don’t have similar standards or missions academically or have and recruit athletes who don’t put as high a priority on their studies, they can gain a huge advantage. The schools that are aligning with us put as much emphasis on their academic programs as athletics and how athletics are part of the total academic experience and athletes are not participating with a higher priority on athletics.
That would imply that some current members of the SCAC don’t all have like-minded standards.
Cloyd (without naming names): That would be accurate.
Take us through how this came about and who initiated it.
Cloyd: The conversation started about two years ago, about the time Austin College (Sherman, Texas) and Colorado College (Colorado Springs) came into the mix in the league and travel intensified significantly. A group of presidents, including myself, and those from Centre, Rhodes and Sewanee, whose institutions were probably the most similar in overall philosophy, got together and then brought in others who wanted to join us and we began talking seriously and putting together. The conversation began with those four institutions.
What were some of the principles that guided you?
Cloyd: Before we started the conference, the president of every school had to vote and commit to what our standard principles are. Among those are that each school must offer at least 18 sports and no coach can make any salary out of line with what a faculty member makes.
It seems like you are trying to create a league that reflects as pure as form of athletics as you can make it in an imperfect world. (Division III has no athletic schools).
Cloyd: We are striving for balance with the whole person. Our emphasis is on the student and giving as many students as possible the total experience within the institution and not just the athletic experience. We want good teams and good athletes and playing opportunities within the overall educational experience, which I think what college athletics ought to be. We want a good athletic experience and a good educational experience and a good class experience, which means you need to limit the possibility of missed class time. We also want the student-athlete to be able to participate in co-curricular experiences like theater.
When you add football and women’s lacrosse, Hendrix will offer 23 sports (if you include cheerleading and dance). What percentage of the student body does that represent?
Cloyd: About 40 percent of our student body competes in some kind of varsity athletic activity. The average percentage of the student body participating in athletics in Division I is about 6 percent, I believe.
Was the minimum of sports that you are requiring a school to offer a factor with the creation of the new conference?
Cloyd: Yes. Many schools in our league offered 18 to 21 sports. But some had 12. By having fewer sports, you’re getting a smaller percentage of the student body involved plus the schools that offer fewer sports are able to put more resources and expenses into the sports they offered and, in my opinion, that created an unfair advantage over schools that had many more sports. It creates a different culture. All the schools in the new conference are academically in tune as well as the number of sports sponsored.
Did DePauw (Greencastle, Ind.) leaving the conference after this year affect the decision to develop the new conference?
Cloyd: Not really. DePauw left the conference because it wanted to join a league that had more focus in its region.
Cloyd: The presidents had their first meeting yesterday. The athletic directors will gather in July to start work on scheduling. The main thing right now is to search for a commissioner.
What’s the process now for football and women’s lacrosse, which you are committed to adding for the 2013-14 seasons?
Cloyd: We have promised our board of trustees (which has already approved the addition of the sports) a plan by this fall so we can add them by the fall of 2013 for football and spring of 2014 for women’s lacrosse.