VMI returning to Southern Conference in 2014-2015

vmi_logoVirginia Military Institute will join the Southern Conference as a full member beginning with the 2014-15 academic year. VMI Superintendent General J.H. Binford Peay III made the announcement Friday afternoon after the Board of Visitors voted to accept an invitation for membership from the league.

“With a unanimous vote, The BOV voted to accept the Southern Conference offer of membership,” said Paul Fraim, President of the VMI Board of Visitors. “We look forward to renewing relationships in the SoCon.”

The move in conference affiliation marks a return to the league where VMI held membership for nearly 80 years. VMI was an all-sports member of the SoCon until July 1, 2003 when it moved to the Big South Conference where it has competed since that time.

“We are extremely excited to return to the Southern Conference,” said General Peay. “While we have enjoyed our association with the Big South Conference and wish it every success, this is the right move for VMI.”

VMI will join a SoCon circuit that is expected to have 2014-15 members Chattanooga, The Citadel, East Tennessee State, Furman, UNCG, Mercer, Samford, Western Carolina, and Wofford.

“It is a momentous day for the Southern Conference to welcome VMI back,” SoCon Commissioner John Iamarino said. “One can’t help being impressed by the tradition and integrity of the institution as symbolized by the Corps of Cadets. We’re delighted to once again compete athletically with VMI.”

“I am pleased that we will join the Southern Conference,” said VMI athletic director Donny White. “We have great friends in the Big South, but now is the right time to return to the SoCon.”

VMI first joined the Southern Conference in December, 1924 and during its 79-year association with the Southern Conference, VMI squads captured seven league football titles, three basketball championships, 31 indoor and outdoor track championships, five cross country championships, 14 wrestling regular season and tournament, nine swimming championships, and two rifle titles. The 1976 men’s basketball team advanced within one game of the Final Four before bowing to Rutgers in the East Regional Final, and in 1977 VMI finished with a school record 26-4 mark and reached the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA tournament. The 1988 baseball team also won the SoCon North Division crown. VMI has continued to wrestle with the SoCon as an associate member since 2003 and hosted this year’s championship.

Currently with an enrollment of over 1,600 cadets, VMI sponsors 18 Division I intercollegiate sports (11 men, 7 women) including Football (FCS), Men’s Basketball, Baseball, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Men’s Lacrosse, Men’s and Women’s Rifle, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Swimming, Men’s and Women’s Track (indoor and outdoor), Women’s Water Polo, and Wrestling.

Founded in 1839, VMI is a four-year undergraduate college awarding bachelor of  arts and bachelor of science degrees. VMI is the nation’s first state-supported military college. VMI’s intercollegiate athletic history dates back to 1866 with the formation of a baseball team, but the first organized sport came in 1891 when cadet Walter H. Taylor served as captain and coach of the first football team.

Famous VMI athletic alumni include General George Marshall, a football player from the class of 1901 who served as chief of staff of the Army in World War II and as Secretary of State was awarded the Nobel Prize for the Marshall Plan that re-built war torn Europe. Jimmy Leech, Class of 1921, starred on VMI’s undefeated 1920 squad and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Bobby Ross, Class of 1959, distinguished himself in the college and professional coaching ranks and led Georgia Tech to a national championship in 1990 and the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl in 1995. Ron Carter ’78, played on the NCAA tournament basketball teams of the 70’s, played with the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. Reggie Williams ’08, led NCAA Division I in scoring in both 2006-07 and 2007-08 and has played for both the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA. Thomas Haskins ’97 became the NCAA’s leading rusher in I-AA football, breaking a mark that stood for 17 years.

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