The Peach Belt Conference welcomed its 14th member as Young Harris College officially joined the league on July 1.
The Peach Belt extended an invitation to the Mountain Lions, who are transitioning into NCAA Division II and is a candidacy year one member, in January.
The Mountain Lions will be immediately eligible for all regular-season championships without automatic bids, and all other PBC awards, including all-conference and all-academic honors for its student-athletes. Young Harris will not be eligible for participation in any PBC Championships which award automatic bids to NCAA Tournaments until they become a full-fledged member of NCAA Division II.
“Young Harris is a perfect fit for our conference,” said PBC Commissioner David R. Brunk. “The commitment they have made to provide a quality academic and athletic experience for their student-athletes will enable them to be competitive in our league immediately. The foundation they have established in a short time will allow them to continue to grow and be successful for years to come, and we are excited to be able to share in that growth and success. President Cathy Cox and Athletic Director Randy Dunn have made a commitment to both Division II and the Peach Belt Conference, and we welcome them with open arms.”
The addition of Young Harris brings the Peach Belt to 14 member institutions, the most the conference has had in its 21-year history. Located about two hours north of Atlanta, in the town of Young Harris, Ga., the college will play basketball in the PBC west division, giving both the east and west the same number of teams for the first time in three years. YHC becomes the first new member of the Peach Belt since Flagler College and the University of Montevallo joined in 2009. North Georgia College & State University and Georgia Southwestern State University both joined the PBC in 2006 while making the transition from the NAIA. Young Harris joins Flagler as the only private institutions in the Peach Belt.
“We are very excited that the Peach Belt wants Young Harris College to be a part of this prestigious Division II conference,” said YHC President Cathy Cox. “I would like to thank Commissioner Brunk and all of the member-institution presidents for their support. The Mountain Lions look forward to competing against some of the best student-athletes in Division II athletics.”
Young Harris was founded in 1886, making it the third-oldest institution in the Peach Belt behind Lander University (1872) and North Georgia (1873).
“We are extremely honored to join the Peach Belt Conference, which is comprised of such an elite group of institutions,” said Dunn. “Not only will this provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of NCAA DII, it will also give our institution regional and national exposure.”
Currently, the Mountain Lions field men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s tennis, all of which are PBC Championship sports. YHC will add men’s and women’s lacrosse as well as competitive cheerleading this fall.
Founded in 1991, the Peach Belt is the home to 32 NCAA Division II National Championships, including the 2012 men’s and women’s tennis titles won by Armstrong Atlantic State University. The PBC hosts 13 championship sports with 14 members in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama.
Members of the Peach Belt include Armstrong (Savannah, Ga.), Augusta State University (Augusta, Ga.), Clayton State University (Morrow, Ga.), Columbus State University (Columbus, Ga.) Flagler (St. Augustine, Fla.), Francis Marion University (Florence, S.C.), Georgia College (Milledgeville, Ga.), Georgia Southwestern State (Americus, Ga.), Lander (Greenwood, S.C.), Montevallo (Montevallo, Ala.), University of North Carolina at Pembroke (Pembroke, N.C.), North Georgia (Dahlonega, Ga.), and the University of South Carolina Aiken (Aiken, S.C.)