Division I independents play waiting game

While conference realignment has dominated the conversation in college sports, here's a friendly reminder that Division I independents merely dream of one day finding a conference to call home.

Longwood University in Farmville, Va., finished with a 12-19 record last season, which is great considering that when the Lancers first played a Division I schedule six years earlier, they had a 1-30 record.

Now, long after that one-win 2004-05 season, Longwood has gotten to the point where it will make a push for conference affiliation, according to The Rotunda.

Longwood University's Director of Athletics Troy Austin stated, "I would say about 85 to 90 percent of our effort is devoted to the Big South, but there are still other conferences of our size that may not be as great a fit, but do present an opportunity, that I continue to reach out to their commissioners.

"In the past, we've talked to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, we've talked to the North East Conference, we've talked to the Atlantic Sun Conference," said Austin. "They are good fits for us because they have automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, but some may stretch us a bit in terms of distance of travel."


With the recent shuffle of large teams such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Texas A&M into new conferences, Longwood hopes to slip into the Big South when the effects of the conference shake-up trickles down. "We have long ago deserved to be in there [the Big South], have done everything on our part," [coach Mike] Gillian said. "Now it becomes up to us to continue to show all of those other institutions in the league and the other presidents of those institutions that we don't only deserve it, but we belong."

For Cal State Bakersfield, it's an interesting time to try landing that coveted conference invitation. The Roadrunners didn't receive one during the WAC's latest round of expansion this summer, but they are at least making some noise.

Cal State Bakersfield installed the nation's only blue basketball court this offseason, and the publicity from that along with the arrival of veteran coach Rod Barnes doesn't hurt.

Also, the baseball program was able to join the WAC last week as an affiliate member while the school's track and tennis programs are headed to the Great West.

Athletic director Jeff Konya indicated to the Bakersfield Californian that he couldn't envision the basketball program being able to become an affiliate member for a conference, but that's the latest strategy for the school's individual sports while it waits for a better situation for basketball.

"If there's a conference that comes on line that wants us as a full-fledged member, the contracts as an affiliate are not as substantial as if we were in a conference and were going to another conference," he said.

So if you have the realignment blues, consider there are schools just trying to find their way. And as those programs are finding out, it can be a long climb to relevance.