WINTER PARK, Fla. (Conference News) – The Sunshine State Conference (SSC) has received official acceptance from Palm Beach Atlantic University to become a provisional member of the conference beginning July 1, 2014. Palm Beach Atlantic joins Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who will also become a provisional member this July.
“On behalf of the presidents in the Sunshine State Conference, we welcome Palm Beach Atlantic,” said Chair of SSC Presidents Council and President/CEO of Nova Southeastern University Dr. George L. Hanbury II. “We are excited for the opportunity to grow to 11 member institutions with the acceptance of Embry-Riddle in December and now Palm Beach Atlantic, both as provisional members.”
PBA will serve a three-year provisional term before becoming a full member of the SSC. The provisional agreement with the SSC requires the institution to meet certain requirements before it can be eligible to compete for conference championships and become a full non-conditional member. If all requirements are met, the Sailfish will begin competing fully in the SSC during the 2017-18 athletic season.
“The Sunshine State Conference is nationally known as the ‘Conference of Champions’ and we believe this new athletic affiliation provides a significant competition platform for our student-athletes, who are well known for their commitment to academic excellence, sportsmanship and community outreach,” said Palm Beach Atlantic President William M.B. Fleming Jr. “The NCAA Division II recognized PBA as a leader in community engagement and the lessons our student-athletes know well will be freely shared with conference members.”
President Fleming added, “The September 2014 opening of the magnificent Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Athletic Campus and the University’s alliance with the Sunshine State Conference ushers in an exciting new era for our students, faculty and Sailfish fans.”
Located in West Palm Beach, Fla., PBA is no stranger to the SSC. Since earning NCAA Division II full membership prior to the 2007-08 academic year, the Sailfish have been a non-conference South Region opponent for SSC-member institutions the past seven years. PBA is currently an NCAA Division II Independent institution. Prior to its transition to Division II, PBA was a member of the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association (NAIA) Florida Sun Conference (now called The Sun Conference).
“We are thrilled that Palm Beach Atlantic has accepted our invitation to become a part of what we believe is the top NCAA Division II conference in the country,” said SSC Commissioner Ed Pasque.
The nine current SSC member institutions, all private schools located in the state of Florida, are: Barry University (Miami Shores), Eckerd College (St. Petersburg), Florida Southern (Lakeland), Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne), Lynn University (Boca Raton), Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale), Rollins College (Winter Park) Saint Leo University (Saint Leo) and the University of Tampa.
“We are pleased to accept the invitation to join the Sunshine State Conference,” said PBA Director of Athletics Carolyn Stone. “The membership will provide our student-athletes an outstanding playing experience and promote the brand of both the Conference and University. PBA expects its student-athletes to be men and women of academic ability, integrity, character and drive, which are traits the SSC seeks in their member institutions.”
PBA currently sponsors 12 varsity sports including baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball. As part of the provisional agreement, PBA is required to add men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s distance track by the 2017-18 season. Currently, the Sailfish compete in men’s and women’s lacrosse at the club level.
The SSC is currently in its first season of men’s lacrosse and recently announced its sponsorship of women’s lacrosse to begin in the spring of 2015. The addition of women’s lacrosse will grow the conference sponsorship to 18 intercollegiate sports that compete in NCAA Division II.
More than 2,000 student-athletes currently participate in the SSC in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s lacrosse, baseball, softball and women’s rowing.
SSC schools have won 84 Division II national championships and have earned national runner-up finishes 71 times. In 2012-13, the conference won six national titles in men’s soccer, men’s tennis, men’s golf, women’s golf, baseball and women’s rowing. In the same season, four teams were national runners-up in men’s swimming, men’s golf, women’s golf and women’s rowing. The conference also captured three individual national titles in men’s and women’s swimming and one in men’s golf.
PBA’s volleyball team has earned berths to two consecutive NCAA Division II Volleyball Championships, including the No. 2 seed in the 2013 NCAA South Regional hosted by Tampa. In 2012, they were the No. 3 seed and advanced to the South Region final before falling to Tampa. During those two seasons, they had a combined record of 64-8, winning 35 games in 2012.
The Sailfish men’s soccer, women’s tennis and softball programs have also been particularly strong, ranking in their respective national polls annually.
Academically, the SSC was named the top Division II conference in Academic Success Rate (ASR) for the seventh-straight year with a graduation rate of 86 percent. A total of 25 SSC teams posted a perfect 100 percent ASR, and eight of the member institutions had at least one program achieve the perfect mark.
PBA fits right in with the SSC in academic success having an 86 percent ASR as well. The PBA athletic department also had a cumulative grade-point average of 3.19 during the fall semester for a record-high since joining the NCAA in 2007-08.
Since the NCAA Elite 89 award was established in 2009-10, the SSC has had eight student-athletes recognized with the accolade. The award is given to the student-athlete with the highest grade-point average at the final site of their respective NCAA Championship.
Located in Winter Park, Fla., the Sunshine State Conference is the only NCAA conference headquartered in the state of Florida.