The Birth of a Conference

In summer 2008, Cedarville commenced discussions to leave the NAIA for NCAA Division II. This idea carried plenty ofprayer and discussions, as Cedarville knew a long road was ahead, said Alan Geist, Cedarville’s athletic director.

The next five years was an extensive and laborious process, Geist said, but that put Cedarville in the position it is in today – as an active member of NCAA Division II and the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, or G-MAC.

Geist had a major role in moving the school to a new division and conference.

“We started to pursue the NCAA,” Geist said, “but we really didn’t know where to go after that.”

Geist said the events that transpired worked for the good of Cedarville and a handful of other schools who were looking to make a change. Before fall 2012, Cedarville competed for over 60 years as a part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In the NAIA, Cedarville was associated with the American Mideast Conference (AMC) and competed against 20 other schools in Ohio and surrounding states.

Four schools approached Cedarville in 2008 and asked the university if a switch to Division II of the NCAA would be feasible.

These schools, including Cedarville, discussed starting an Ohio-based conference once they were accepted into NCAA Division II. Geist said Cedarville was venturing into unchartered territories and was uncertain about the future.

Geist said although they wanted to transfer to NCAA Division II, there was added pressure because the AMC was falling apart. If Cedarville stayed in NAIA, Geist said, it would have to look for a new conference because the AMC was disintegrating. Cedarville would spend plenty of time in prayer and thoughtful consideration over the next few months as itdecided what to do, Geist said.

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Ethan Dewhurst and the Cedarville men’s soccer team finished second this season in the G-MAC and is the No. 2 seed in the tournament. | Photo From: Jillian Philyaw

Cedarville decided to take the leap and apply for NCAA Division II status, he said. Within months, six schools previously associated with the NAIA decided to apply for the NCAA and create their own conference.

Geist said he thought this was a great plan on paper, and the colleges figured the plan would work out well. But they found out there is a substantial difference between applying for NCAA status and actually being accepted. Out of those six schools, only Cedarville and one other were accepted on their first try.

Cedarville was very excited and blessed to have been accepted, Geist said, but the school had no conference to join. According to Geist, the plan was for all six colleges to apply and be accepted, and then start a conference based out of Ohio.

Four of the schools were denied, but three reapplied and were accepted to the NCAA. A few of the newly accepted schools withdrew from joining the Ohio-based conference. They joined a separate conference inside NCAA Division II, Geist said.

Cedarville experienced many ups and downs since 2008 and had to be smart about its decisions, Geist said. The university began to think the Ohio-based conference would not come to fruition.

At that point, Cedarville decided to pursue another conference. Even though the NCAA accepted them as a Division II school, its application to an NCAA conference was denied. This left the school in a state of flux because it could not find a home. Geist said they wanted every decision to benefit the student-athletes, faculty and staff that were involved.


Rachel Groh helped lead the women’s cross-country team to victory at the G-MAC championships. | Photo From: Jillian Philyaw

Cedarville became a full NCAA member in September of 2012. Then Cedarville and five other NCAA schools applied as the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC). As of September 2013, the G-MAC is an 11-school conference and officially recognized by the NCAA.

This was a blessing to Cedarville and all the other colleges that applied, Geist said. It was a great relief to see the hard work finally pay off. After tedious amounts of paperwork and a plethora of other processes, Cedarville was finally in a conference in the NCAA.

The other members of the G-MAC are Central State and Ursuline of Ohio; Alderson-Broaddus, Davis & Elkins, Ohio Valley and Salem International of West Virginia; Kentucky Wesleyan and Georgetown of Kentucky; Trevecca Nazarene and Cumberland of Tennessee.

Geist said applying to be a part of NCAA Division II and the G-MAC is a long process that requires patience and dedication. Unless someone is directly involved, it is hard to understand just how much paperwork goes into applying as a conference.

Fortunately for Cedarville, the job was made much easier because they do a great job of keeping track of necessary information, said Drew Howard, Cedarville’s NCAA compliance coordinator. Cedarville also had to make sure the athletic department understood the processes and procedures it would have to follow.

When the application process was started, Cedarville already had great personnel in place to handle the workload of switching conferences, Geist said. It was tedious work, but Cedarville already had most of the processes required by Division II in place. It just needed to write it all down and submit it to the NCAA.

A key part of the transition was bringing in a compliance coordinator for Cedarville. Howard, who had been a graduate assistant at Western Kentucky University, was a tremendous help in bringing clarity and focus to the changes, Geist said. Howard was learning on the fly because this position was new for him. He had to learn the rules and legislation for Division II and be able to reiterate them to Cedarville’s coaches and staff.

Howard said learning a new set of rules and regulations is a daunting task. While the NAIA had a 30-page rule book, NCAA Division II boasts a 400-page rule book. Howard said it took tremendous patience and dedication to learn the rules.

“The NCAA is a different structure,” Howard said. “It’s a different requirement and level of accountability and rules.”

Howard said Cedarville did an excellent job transitioning without help from a consultant.

“Most schools hire a consultant,” Howard said. “We chose to not hire a consultant. So we kind of did things on our own.”

Cedarville knew this would create more work for them, Howard said, and although Cedarville had more work to do, it helped in the long run. Howard said he was expecting Cedarville to be better off because they now know all the processes and rules.

Geist said the G-MAC has been a blessing for the colleges involved, but he still wants to see growth. Geist said he also wants to see more schools join the conference.

“My guess is we could get up in the 16- 18 range,” Geist said. “No matter what, more schools than we have now would be our goal.”

Growth in numbers would be excellent for the G-MAC, but Geist said there is a more important goal for the colleges. He wants every college in the G-MAC to grow as a community.

“Our other goal is that … our schools would grow, our athletic departments would become more and more professional and do things the right way,” Geist said.

Those associated with the G-MAC are very proud of the work put forth by the schools, Geist said. Starting a conference is a tall task, and it was handled with class among the 10 current schools, Geist said.

Tom Daeger, the commissioner of the G-MAC, said he was impressed with how the schools have handled the transition. Daeger came into the picture in the fall of 2011 and said he has seen tremendous growth but knows there is more in store for the conference.

Daeger pointed out two specific goals for the conference. The G-MAC wants to have enough members to create two separate divisions within the conference, and they also want to increase the number of sports within the conference.

“I think we have done a nice job in developing the league to a point where our student athletes are proud to be affiliated with the G-MAC,” Daeger said. “I think we’ve done a great job of achieving our goals to this point.”

Beau Michaud is a senior communications and economics major and a sports reporter for Cedars. He competes on the track and field team. Follow him at @beaumichaud13.

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