(PRESQUE ISLE, ME) -- The University of Maine-Presque Isle athletic department has announced that they have accepted an invitation from the Great South Athletic Conference for its women's programs to join the league beginning in the 2013-14 season.
The unique relationship with the GSAC as "Championship members" provides benefits for both sides. For the GSAC, it helps the conference maintain its automatic playoff bids to NCAA Division III National Tournaments, awarded to the winner of each sport's conference tournament.
For Presque Isle, it gives the athletic department its first NCAA conference affiliation for any of its teams since the university joined Division III in 2004-05. The opportunity to play in an end of the season conference tournament provides the women's teams something to play for and potentially a more direct route into national post-season play.
"We are excited that our affiliation with the GSAC will provide a Championship experience for many of our women's teams," said UMPI interim-Athletic Director Paul Stone. "Since our exit from the NAIA Sunrise Conference most of our teams have not had the opportunity for post- season play. This move means our women's teams at least will have that opportunity while we continue to search for a long term solution that benefits all of our sports teams. Playing in the GSAC conference tournaments is the clearest path our teams have to playing in an NCAA Regional and competing for a national championship."
Due to geographical constraints, UMPI teams will not play a traditional conference schedule. The closest GSAC school to Presque Isle is Pine Manor College, an all-women institution in Chestnut Hill, MA. Pine Manor is also a "Championship Only" member that joined in 2012.
UMPI and Finlandia (MI) University will become the only two co-educational institutions in the GSAC. The schools will replace two current GSAC co-ed institutions, Covenant College and Huntingdon College, who both announced in 2012 their intentions to move to the USA South Athletic Conference beginning in 2013-14. Mills College will also join the GSAC next year.
"The Great South Athletic Conference is thrilled to announce the addition of Finlandia University, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Mills College," said GSAC commissioner Joeleen Akin. "With their dedication to maintaining high academic standards while fostering top-notch athletic competition they were natural choices to join our league."
Founded in 1999 as a group of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III member institutions, the GSAC member schools bear similar academic and athletic interests. The GSAC currently sponsors the women's sports of cross country, soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball and tennis.The institutions are located in Alabama (Huntingdon College), California (Mills College), Georgia (Agnes Scott College, Covenant College, Spelman College and Wesleyan College), North Carolina (Salem College), Maine (University of Maine at Presque Isle), Massachusetts (Pine Manor College), Michigan (Finlandia University) and Washington D.C. (Trinity Washington University).
UMPI men's teams will continue to compete as independents in both the NCAA Division III and USCAA in 2013-14.
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