Berry College will join other members of the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) of NCAA Division III in offering football as a varsity sport in 2013, and men’s and women’s track and field soon thereafter, President Steve Briggs announced Saturday.
“We believe that the addition of football will be an enhancement to our campus life. As a residential college, like the other schools in our conference, Berry features a community of students who live and learn together. Football games will offer more opportunities for energetic engagement by students and will allow more social activities for alumni and friends,” Dr. Briggs said.
A founding member of the SAA, Berry’s teams compete with Birmingham-Southern College, Centre College, Hendrix College, Millsaps College, Oglethorpe University, Rhodes College and Sewanee: The University of the South.
The school anticipates hiring a football coach during 2012 with a target to begin play in 2013. Planning will begin during the next few months to add facilities to support football and track and field.
The Berry College Board of Trustees’ unanimous support for adding the sports followed a multi-year evaluation process which included analyses by outside consultants, wide-ranging discussions on campus involving students, faculty, staff and alumni along with extensive research as to the benefits these sports will bring to the campus.
“Berry’s involvement with the new Southern Athletic Association promotes the active engagement of athletes in all college activities and is a model for the true scholar-athlete,” said Board of Trustees Chair Karen Holley Horrell. “We are proud to offer our students additional opportunities through the addition of football and men’s and women’s track and field.”
Todd Brooks, Berry’s athletic director, said, “We are truly excited to be adding football at this time in our history. We have added a number of athletic opportunities for our student-athletes in the past couple of years and this is by far one of the most exciting.
“All of our coaches and student-athletes at Berry are competitive and expect to win, both on the field and in the classroom. We are proud of the tradition of success our athletics program has established, and we fully expect that our teams will continue that tradition as we move forward. We are looking forward to seeing our football and track and field teams help build on the foundation that's been established, and assisting Berry College in reaching its institutional goals."
The addition of football brings the total number of varsity sports sponsored by Berry College to 21, including 20 that compete at the NCAA Division III level. Berry's equestrian team competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, winning the IHSA's national championship in the Western division this past spring.
Since 2003, when volleyball made its debut on the Berry campus, the college has been aggressive in adding opportunities for student-athletes to compete in intercollegiate athletics. Since then, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's swimming and diving and softball have been added. Equestrian has also been elevated to the varsity level from club status.
Student-athletes in Division III schools do not receive athletic scholarships, although they are eligible for merit and need-based financial aid. They must meet stringent entrance requirements of the participating colleges and are encouraged to pursue activities that are offered to all students including study abroad, participation in the Work Experience Program and leadership in campus organizations.