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SMCM set to take on three new competitors


Staff writer

“* = Conference games.”

It says this at the bottom of every St. Mary’s College of Maryland athletic schedule.

Up and down each Seahawks sports schedule, the asterisks sit by the names of schools inside the Capital Athletic Conference that the St. Mary’s athletic teams face year in and year out.

However, the 2012-13 athletic season will be the last season the asterisks sit by only six other schools because as of July 1, the CAC will add three additional schools to the conference.

St. Mary’s College athletic director Scott Devine and the NCAA Division III’s CAC will welcome Christopher Newport University (Va.), Penn State Harrisburg and Southern Virginia University to the conference as of that date.

“It was critical,” Devine said of the additions. “We’ve been centrally involved in discussions about membership for the last several years. It started when Goucher and Catholic, who were founding members of the CAC left [in 2007]. ... One of the responsibilities that I have is to make sure we have a credible and viable league for our coaches to recruit to and play for championships and for our athletes to compete in.”

Devine and the other nine athletic directors are already operating as a 10-team conference starting in September, when the CAC athletic directors, including the three new schools, will meet for a special scheduling meeting.

“We schedule at least a year out for every sport,” Devine said. “So, we have a number of scheduling issues that will all be worked out. … Now it’s a matter of all of our ADs getting together and establishing some new principles because our geography has changed a little bit.”

Despite the new traveling demands, Devine added he does believe the scheduling circumstances will improve based on the fact that there are now 10 schools.

“Change is something we all have had to embrace,” Devine admitted. “For the coaches, it’s going to be a change for sure, but I think everybody is pretty excited about the schools that we brought in. All three are very different schools with different athletic traditions.”

Devine said that Christopher Newport often is ranked nationally and regionally in various sports and is expected to challenge for a CAC championship from day one.

He also said that Southern Virginia transitioning from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to Division III and Penn State Harrisburg coming into the conference, respectively, adds a certain level of intrigue across the conference.

“It just helps change the footprint of the Capital Athletic Conference,” Devine added.

Devine also admitted that he is for the betterment of the conference as a whole, evidenced by his belief that the conference should have more football-playing schools.

“We needed to find some football members,” Devine said. “Although St. Mary’s is not a football-playing school, we know how important it is for the football-playing schools to get to that magic number of seven so that they can have an automatic qualifier.”

Devine also hinted at the CAC not being done adding schools, and further down the road possibly going to 12 or more members.

Entering his 19th year as head baseball coach at St. Mary’s, Lew Jenkins voiced his opinion on adding Christopher Newport, already an annual opponent to Seahawks baseball, to the conference.

“Speaking for baseball,” Jenkins began, “the addition of Christopher Newport is going to make things very competitive. It’s already competitive enough, but they are very strong in all of their sports.”

And in addition to the other two schools being added, Jenkins said, “I am glad to see it happen to be honest with you.”