Saints may be eligible for playoffs in 08-09, waiting on SSC
By Devon Jeffreys | firstname.lastname@example.org
It might not be as long as expected before postseason play returns to Flagler College.
One part of the lengthy NCAA transition process on the verge of being shortened is Flagler’s provisionary period. Originally believed to be three to four years long, Flagler received word that, due to good standing, 2007-2008 will be the final provisionary year for the school.
“They told us as long as we stay on track, we will be full members of NCAA Div. II by next summer,” Athletic Director Dave Barnett said.
The news means that Flagler will be eligible for NCAA postseason play in 2008-2009, a huge coup for the athletic department.
“It’s really exciting,” sophomore volleyball player Justine Burkhardt said. “It really gives us something to look forward to. Last year and this year, we’ve had to set little goals for ourselves, but next year hopefully there will be one big goal to look forward to.”
According to volleyball coach Taylor Mott, it was a change in the provisionary process that helped Flagler knock some time off their provisionary period.
The NCAA changed the process this year, but because Flagler was admitted last year, they moved deeper into the new process without having to backtrack.
Barnett, however, cautions that just because Flagler will be eligible next year, doesn’t mean they’ll make it.
“The thing about postseason is, you still have to qualify,” he said. “You still have to do well enough.”
Being part of a conference would make qualifying for postseason easier, but Flagler is still an independent and as fall sports teams open their second season in the NCAA, the athletic department remains in a staring contest with the Sunshine State Conference.
When Flagler was accepted as a provisionary member of the NCAA Div. II last year, they sought entrance into the Sunshine State Conference. Since then, it has become a waiting game.
The SSC currently has nine teams, all from the state of Florida, and its officials are in the process of deciding whether the conference will expand. Palm Beach Atlantic has also applied for admission to the conference.
SSC officials visited Flagler’s campus on Aug. 29 and 30 to continue the process.
“They’re looking at facilities, financial records, any records you can think of,” Mott said. “Pretty much everything, not just athletics.”
The committee assembled by the SSC also met with coaches and toured the campus, all to get a better feel for whether they believe Flagler fits in the SSC.
“We’re optimistic, but it’s a president’s decision whether they want to expand,” Barnett said.
Though the visit is complete, a decision is not expected until November. At that time, the SSC will determine whether they will expand and what teams would be included in that expansion. That means the waiting game will continue well into the fall semester.
“I think that we’re hoping for the best, but I don’t think anybody is confident that we’ll get in,” Mott said. “We don’t know what they’re thinking. Obviously we feel like we’re a good fit, but we’re not sure what they’re looking for.”
Though alternate plans involving the Peach Belt Conference have been brought up, Barnett insists that Flagler is focused on getting into the Sunshine State Conference.
The coaches and administrators believe Flagler fits into the Sunshine State Conference both academically and athletically. Flagler outgrew the Florida Sun Conference and the NAIA on both ends, which brought forth the move to the NCAA. The coaches are ready for the challenge that the stronger competition will continue to bring.
“If it’s not the best Div. II conference in the country, it’s one of the best,” men’s soccer coach John Lynch said of the SSC. “It’s very strong. It’s great for men’s soccer and it’s going to be a very tough conference to compete in. To play in a great league will make you better.”
Men’s basketball coach Bo Clark is not unfamiliar with the Sunshine State Conference. His alma mater, UCF, was an original member of the SSC.
Clark believes that Flagler is progressing well in its NCAA transition.
“The facilities look the best they have in my 20 years here. They have to be impressed with our school and our facilities,” he said.
Clark said that as far as the SSC goes, the decision is out of Flagler’s hands. “We just have to put or best foot forward.”
According to Lynch, the most frustrating thing about the whole process has not been waiting for decisions to be made. In fact, it was a decision that was made that frustrated him. Lynch said that none of the coaches were consulted before Flagler decided to move to the NCAA Div. II last year.
“This was a decision where none of the coaches were asked their opinion before the decision was made,” Lynch said. “It would have been nice to have a little round table discussion prior to it being public. There are some of us that have Div. II experience and I think it would have been nice at least for our opinion to be sought.”
Lynch does agree, however, that it was the correct decision and the right fit for the school and the athletic department.
“I think the NCAA is a much stronger fit and I think it’s healthier for the long-term objective of the school,” he said. “From a recruiting standpoint it’s a great move. From an identification stand point it’s a great move. So far it’s been very positive and we’ve been doing the right things.”
Until November, Flagler sits and waits, but that doesn’t mean the teams have nothing to play for.
“We get the chance to finish the season with a win,” Burkhardt said. “Not many teams can say that. We’ve just got to go out and play every game like it is our championship.”