“Basically, Malone just got entrance into the SEC of Division II,” Athletic Director Charlie Grimes said.
After two long years the process for finding a conference for Pioneer Athletics is finally over.
Both the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) and the Pioneers athletic website released that the conference has accepted the application of the University for membership yesterday, Monday October 31, 2011.
“From a coaching prespective, you say ‘okay I am relieved,’” volleyball head coach Tanya Hockman said. “I know where my new home is, I can figure out who lives in my neighborhood and how do I stack up against the competition.”
Officially the Pioneers will not begin their play in the GLIAC conference until the fall of 2012 and the Pioneers, in the third and final year of the process to NCAA Div. II, will not be eligible for GLIAC postseason play in sports that have an automatic qualifier for NCAA postseason play.
For Malone, the sports that have automatic qualifiers include volleyball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis and men’s golf. The Pioneers eligible for postseason next year will include cross country, women’s golf, men’s soccer, indoor and outdoor track and field and swimming and diving.
According to Grimes this was and is the most important step in the process for a university to become a Division II program. From the beginning, the GLIAC was the number one choice for the Pioneers.
“The GLIAC has always been our first choice,” Grimes said. “For a lot of our coaches is was kind of a dream to be in this conference.”
If membership with the GLIAC fell through, Grimes said the other option was to join forces with other independent universities such as Walsh, Notre Dame (OH) and Cedarville to create a conference of their own. The issue there was not each university sponsored all the sports the Pioneers sponsor.
[pullquote]I think it was good to bring some unity and solidarity to what we are doing,” Grimes said. “The general athlete response was ‘let’s go, let’s do it, let’s get after it next year.’”[/pullquote]
Grimes and the rest of the department made their public announcement to the student-athletes about their acceptance into the GLIAC last Friday morning.
The announcement to Pioneer athletes, according to Grimes, went very well as it “galvanized” the department.
“I think it was good to bring some unity and solidarity to what we are doing,” Grimes said. “The general athlete response was ‘let’s go, let’s do it, let’s get after it next year.’”
However, since this is the toughest competition in Division II, the Pioneers certainly have a challenge on their hands.
“I know the competition will be harder than it was in the AMC,” senior cross-country runner Allison Black said.
Hockman also understands the tough competition her team will face but she undoubtedly stills believes they will be able to compete night in and night out.
“The harsh reality is that we will probably take our hard knocks, but I am going to go recruit and prepare our team like we are going to be in it from the very beginning,” Hockman said. “I just don’t know how else to approach it. So, I’m just being bull-headed and saying yeah I believe we are going to compete. I don’t think we are going to be the best team in the conference but I expect to compete.”
Going forward, entering this premiere conference certainly presents great opportunity for the athletic department and the university.
While Grimes said he believes the Pioneers will be the underdog and face an uphill battle in the beginning, he also knows they will be able to compete and win as well.
“For a lack of better illustration, we will be sort of the little David character that is going to go up against Goliath every once in a while and every once in a while we will knock somebody in the head with a rock, figuratively of course, and knock some of the giants out,” Grimes said.