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Point Park begins new era in KIAC

Point Park University Athletics begins next chapter with KIAC in 2012-13

Posted on July 3, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. ET

Point Park University Director of Athletics Dan Swalga in an interview July 3, 2012 discusses the Pioneers' new conference affiliation in the KIAC. Read interview transcriptions below.

Related Articles & Links:
Point Park accepted for KIAC membership beginning in 2012-13 (Jan. 12, 2012)

Point Park wins 2012-13 KIAC Commissioner's Cup in its first year as a KIAC member (May 15, 2013)

KIAC Web site  KIAC on Twitter  KIAC on Facebook

PITTSBURGH – With the official disbanding of the American Mideast Conference on July 1, 2012, the next chapter in Point Park University athletics has arrived with competition in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference beginning in the Fall of 2012.

Point Park was accepted into the KIAC in January 2012, and the 2012-13 school year will be its first in the NAIA league that has 12 schools spread across Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri. All 11 of Point Park’s varsity sports teams will be members of the KIAC.

Point Park had been in the AMC since 1998-99, but the league officially ended its time as a conference on July 1. AMC Commissioner Jim Houdeshell sent a memo to conference schools stating that the AMC would end its 62-year existence after its membership dwindled over the last few years. The AMC had 16 members as recently as 2008-09. Of its eight members in its final year of 2011-12, only two were left at the end of the school year.

With membership in the KIAC, Point Park is beginning a new chapter in its athletics history, one that has included national affiliation with the NAIA for its entire 45 years of athletics versus four-year schools.

The KIAC has 12 schools: Point Park University, Carlow (Pa.) University, Alice Lloyd (Ky.) College, Asbury (Ky.) University, Berea (Ky.) College, Brescia (Ky.) University, Cincinnati Christian (OH) University, Indiana University East, Indiana University Southeast, Midway (Ky.) College, Mountain State (W.Va.) University and St. Louis (Mo.) College of Pharmacy.

On July 3, 2012, Point Park Director of Athletics Dan Swalga sat down for a video interview discussing the key aspects of the Pioneers’ new conference affiliation. He was excited to share with fans, alumni, faculty, staff, students and media what the KIAC brings to Point Park.

Swalga discussed the importance of conference affiliation within the NAIA, developments in the AMC over the last few years, the process of being accepted into the KIAC, travel in the new conference, the make-up of KIAC schools and why the NAIA is a great fit for Point Park athletics.

Quotes from Dan Swalga, Point Park Univ. Director of Athletics, about new conference affiliation with the KIAC are transcribed below:

1. Talk a little bit about the importance of conference affiliation within the NAIA and what the KIAC is providing for Point Park in that regard.

-- “We’re very excited about being affiliated with the a new conference. It provides two things for schools. One is that because you are affiliated with a conference, scheduling becomes easier. Each one of our teams has to play the other teams in the conference. And two, it provides a clear path to (national) postseason play. Of our 11 sports, 10 of them in the KIAC will have automatic bids (to national tournaments). Which means the path is that if we win the conference, we get to go to the national tournament.

2. For those who might not know, the AMC disbanded because of several years of migration of schools to other NAIA leagues as well as the NCAA DII and DIII. You could say that Point Park didn’t leave the AMC as much as the AMC left us. Would you agree?

-- “Exactly. I agree with that. When I got to the AMC (in 2006-07), there were 20 members, and each year, one or two would migrate away. The big hit came when five or six schools in Ohio decided to pursue (NCAA) DII, and at that point, schools that were left were scrambling to either stay NAIA and join another conference or consider DII or DIII.

3. As the developments in the AMC came about over the last few years, when did it become apparent that Point Park needed to seek new conference affiliation, and what was the process like of being accepted into the KIAC?

-- “The day that the six schools -- Walsh, Malone, Notre Dame (OH), Ursuline, Mt. Vernon Nazarene and Cedarville --  decided that they were going to try to band together to join DII, that was the beginning of the end of the conference. And as I said earlier, everyone else had to start thinking about their future. The first thought was that we were still left with New York schools Daemen, Roberts Wesleyan, Carlow here in Pittsburgh and of course Houghton. We were talking about trying to affiliate as a group with another NAIA conference. But that ended up being a little bit difficult for us because the schools we were talking with were in Maine, which made the travel like a 1,000 miles away. So we were hesitant with that. And it also made us consider DII as a possibility.

Note: Of the AMC’s eight members in 2011-12, Walsh, Roberts Wesleyan and Daemen are moving to NCAA DII, Houghton is pursuing NCAA DIII, Carlow and Point Park are joining the KIAC, and Fisher and Wilberforce were left remaining.

4. How did it come about that Point Park contacted the KIAC and was approved for membership?

-- “The other thought process for us was to look around for other NAIA conferences. It was simply making a call to the KIAC commissioner (Bill Melton), and I was very happy to hear that they were interested. We considered us and Carlow as a packaged deal being that we are both from Pittsburgh. And the commissioner was interested. We went to an introductory meeting, met the other A.D.s, and made a formal application. That process happened fairly quickly. It only took a couple of months, they voted us in, and at that point, we were able to schedule a complete schedule for all of our sports for the 2012-13 year.

5. When fans hear the word Kentucky in the name of the conference, they may say that it seems so far away and why would Point Park join a conference based there? The reality is that there was some travel involved in the AMC -- maybe not as far as with the KIAC -- but how will travel be alleviated so as to best work with class schedules and so forth?

-- “It will be a little more travel, but remember, we did go to Rochester, N.Y. (for Roberts Wesleyan), which was five hours away and to Shawnee (State) and Rio (Grande) in Ohio. The schools in Ohio were a lot of trips three hours away and farther. We’re used to it, but it does extend it a little bit. But every member of the KIAC has been very sensitive to missed class time and also trying to group games together, especially with us and Carlow. Most of the games that we are playing on the road will be on the weekends. One of the benefits of Point Park is that we have very few Friday classes. So we are able to make that trip on a Friday, play a couple of games down in Kentucky, make our way back on Sunday and avoid missing class as much as possible.

6. Point Park has always been NAIA our entire 45 years of athletics and will continue its NAIA membership into the future with the KIAC. What is it about the NAIA that makes it a great fit for Point Park University?

-- “Well, my experience was with the NCAA when I got here. When I got here and started to get a sense of what the NAIA was all about, I was very impressed with the Champions of Character program. I was impressed with the championship tournaments that we were able to get to this year with volleyball, baseball and women’s basketball. They were done very well. They are a professional organization; they support their members very well. So from an administration stand point, it’s been good for us. And the NAIA has rules that are such that it gives kids chances to play, and that provides a niche that I think is necessary out there (in college athletics), especially for transfers.

7. And for small college athletics to give athletic scholarships, that helps as well, correct?

-- “Yes, we are able to use that and get some really good athletes here.”

8. Finally, for fans who may not know, what is the makeup of the KIAC? Is it a lot of schools that are similar to Point Park in terms of size, athletic tradition and athletic stature? I know it has its fair share of teams that compete nationally.

-- “We are going to be one of the larger schools in terms of enrollment. Most of the schools are private and smaller. The Kentucky schools are mostly private. There are two state schools from Indiana – Indiana University East and Indiana University Southeast – those I think are bigger and tuition is smaller. In essence, there is a mixture of privates and a couple of publics in there. And so, it‘s an eclectic group, but I believe it is a strong group. I believe in the commissioner as he is trying to expand. And I know that they are in contact with a number of schools that could be possible new members.