Forest, Va. --- The Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) will welcome a new institution to its membership in a year's time as the ODAC President's Council confirmed the acceptance of Ferrum College as the league's 15th full-time member. The Panthers will begin competition under the ODAC banner in the 2018-19 academic year.
Ferrum's introduction to the league concludes a thorough process undertaken by the ODAC's presidents and directors of athletics in exploring the conference's membership profile.
"We are pleased to have Ferrum College, with its strong athletic tradition and a fierce commitment to its institutional mission, join us at this important time for the ODAC," stated Robert Lindgren, President of Randolph-Macon College and Chair of the ODAC President's Council.
Already one of two associate members of the ODAC for men's and women's swimming (with Greensboro College), Ferrum will be the second full-time addition to the league's membership in the past six years. Shenandoah University was announced as the ODAC's 14th member in 2012 with competition beginning in the 2012-13 academic year. Ferrum will be on a similar track with the Panthers officially joining the league on July 1, 2018.
"This announcement culminates a year-long membership study by the conference to address several strategic priorities of the league," explained ODAC Commissioner Brad Bankston. "We are pleased to welcome Ferrum College into the ODAC and look forward to spirited competition beginning in 2018-19. Ferrum's application and the conference's campus visit highlighted what we knew about the college - a strong commitment to its institutional mission and a passion for athletics. A combination that is a great fit for the conference."
Ferrum sponsors 21 intercollegiate varsity programs at the NCAA Division III level, of which 19 align with current ODAC sponsorships. The Panthers have been a member of the USA South Athletic Conference since 1988, with a few exceptions. FC's field hockey team competed in the Southern Athletic Association, while the men's lacrosse team played for the Southeast Independent Lacrosse Championship (SEILC), an event inaugurated in 2015. Both field hockey and men's lacrosse will join baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, equestrian, football, men's golf, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball as ODAC-sponsored sports.
The Panthers also sponsor programs in men's and women's wrestling, but neither are a part of the ODAC's 24 championship sport sponsorships. Ferrum's men's wrestling will continue its partnership with the Southeast Wrestling Conference, while its women's program will remain without conference affiliation.
"Ferrum's broad sport offerings provide the conference a partner in nearly all our league-sponsored sports," said Bankston. "There is a long-standing tradition of competition between ODAC members and Ferrum that dates back many years. These relationships will make this transition easier while ratcheting up our already competitive conference races."
Ferrum has been highly competitive in several athletic programs, advancing teams or individuals in four sports to NCAA Division III postseason competition in recent years. The women's basketball program participated in three straight NCAA Tournaments from 2012 through 2014, hosting first- and second-round games in 2014. The softball team earned NCAA playoff berths in 2012 and 2016. Ferrum sent a wrestler to the NCAA Tournament in 2014, two in 2016, and three in 2017. The Panther mat men won the NCAA Division III Wrestling East Regional in 2017, boasted one All-American in each of the past two seasons, and had a wrestler close out the year as national runner-up. Ferrum also sent a golfer to the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Ferrum and our student-athletes," said Acting President Dr. Jennifer Braaten. "We have aspired to be a part of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference for years and feel our commitment to academics and athletics make us a perfect fit for the league."
In USA South competition, Ferrum has won a combined 37 titles with 27 regular season crowns and 10 tournament championships. The Panthers' baseball and women's basketball programs have been most successful, accounting for 21 combined championships. Most recently, the baseball team shared USA South regular season crowns in 2014 and 2016.
Ferrum has been well-represented on the USA South Academic All-Conference Team, posting its highest number last summer with 121 honorees. A number of student-athletes have earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in recent years, three of which have been named CoSIDA Academic All-America in 2012, 2015, and 2016.
"Membership in the ODAC has been at the forefront for years," said Director of Athletics Abe Naff. "We are pleased to be offered this great opportunity and look forward to this partnership with the other 14 institutions."
Founded in 1913 and related to the United Methodist Church, Ferrum is a four-year, private, co-educational, liberal arts institution. The College offers nationally recognized bachelor's degree programs ranging from business and environmental science to teacher education and criminal justice.
Celebrating its 42nd year of operation in 2017-18, the ODAC is one of the nation's largest NCAA Division III conferences. The 14 full-time member ODAC, plus two associate members (Ferrum College and Greensboro College) in women's swimming, sponsors championships in 24 sports (11 men, 13 women) and houses 11 co-educational schools and three single-gender institutions. Headquartered in Forest, Va., the ODAC has garnered national recognition in hosting or co-hosting 69 NCAA Division III national championships over the past 25 years, many in conjunction with the City of Salem, Va.
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