LEXINGTON, Va. - Virginia Military Institute returns to its intercollegiate athletic roots when it officially rejoins the Southern Conference effective Tuesday, July 1.
VMI announced in May, 2013 that it would be rejoining the SoCon as an all-sports member beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. The Keydet athletic teams had been competing in the Big South Conference since July 1, 2003.
The move in conference affiliation marks a return to the league where VMI held membership for nearly 80 years. VMI was an all-sports member of the SoCon until July 1, 2003 when it moved to the Big South Conference where it had competed for 11 years.
"VMI closes a wonderful partnership with the Big South Conference with sincere appreciation for the opportunities and experiences gained by our cadet athletes, coaches and staff; and appreciative that this has been an important chapter in the intercollegiate athletics history of the Institute,” said VMI athletics director, Dr. Dave Diles. “The relationships developed will be ongoing as we transition to nonconference peers working collaboratively on the important topics that shape intercollegiate athletics.”
Looking ahead to rejoining the Southern Conference, Diles added, “On July 1st, we are, without question, thrilled to be returning to the Southern Conference. History and tradition are foundation pieces for intercollegiate athletics and the Southern Conference-as the nation's 5th oldest Division I conference-has a unique position on the college athletics landscape. The Southern Conference is widely recognized as a leader in exceptional academic performance of student-athletes, sportsmanship, commonality of vision in how intercollegiate athletics fit in higher education and competitive excellence. As we simultaneously offer our parting words of thanks to the Big South, and accept the warm reception into the Southern Conference, we will do so in the VMI spirit and knowing that our intercollegiate program's future is exceedingly bright."
VMI first joined the Southern Conference in December, 1924 and during its 79-year association with the Southern Conference, VMI squads captured seven league football titles, three basketball championships, 31 indoor and outdoor track championships, five cross country championships, 14 wrestling regular season and tournament, nine swimming championships, and two rifle titles. The 1976 men's basketball team advanced within one game of the Final Four before bowing to Rutgers in the East Regional Final, and in 1977 VMI finished with a school record 26-4 mark and reached the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA tournament. The 1969 and 1988 baseball teams also won the SoCon North Division crown. VMI has continued to wrestle with the SoCon as an associate member since 2003 and hosted the 2013 conference championship meet at Cameron Hall.
VMI will join a SoCon circuit that will have have 2014-15 members Chattanooga, The Citadel, East Tennessee State, Furman, UNCG, Mercer, Samford, Western Carolina, and Wofford.
Currently with an enrollment of nearly 1,600 cadets, VMI sponsors 18 Division I intercollegiate sports (11 men, 7 women) including Football (FCS), Men's Basketball, Baseball, Men's and Women's Cross Country, Men's Lacrosse, Men's and Women's Rifle, Men's and Women's Soccer, Men's and Women's Swimming, Men's and Women's Track (indoor and outdoor), Women's Water Polo, and Wrestling.
The Keydets will be eligible for men’s SoCon titles in football, basketball, baseball, cross country, soccer, wrestling, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and lacrosse. VMI’s women’s team will compete for SoCon championships in soccer, cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.
VMI’s men’s and women’s rifle teams will continue to compete in the Mid-Atlantic Rifle Conference while the men’s and women’s swimming and diving squads will still compete in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA). VMI’s most recent sport addition, women’s water polo team, will continue to compete in the MAAC.
Founded in 1839, VMI is a four-year undergraduate college awarding bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. VMI is the nation's first state-supported military college. VMI's intercollegiate athletic history dates back to 1866 with the formation of a baseball team, but the first organized sport came in 1891 when cadet Walter H. Taylor served as captain and coach of the first football team.
Famous VMI athletic alumni include General George Marshall, a football player from the class of 1901 who served as chief of staff of the Army in World War II and as Secretary of State was awarded the Nobel Prize for the Marshall Plan that rebuilt war torn Europe. Jimmy Leech, Class of 1921, starred on VMI's undefeated 1920 squad and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Bobby Ross, Class of 1959, distinguished himself in the college and professional coaching ranks and led Georgia Tech to a national championship in 1990 and the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl in 1995. Ron Carter '78, played on the NCAA tournament basketball teams of the 70's, played with the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA. Reggie Williams '08, led NCAA Division I in scoring in both 2006-07 and 2007-08 and has played for the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, and Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. Thomas Haskins '97 held the top spot as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher in FCS football, breaking a mark that stood for 17 years.