Young Harris College extended an invitation to join the Peach Belt Conference

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Peach Belt Conference Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Young Harris College has been invited to become the league’s 14th member, effective July 1, 2012.  The board unanimously voted to extend the invitation during a conference call Monday (Jan. 9).

 “We took an in depth look at Young Harris through the application process and came away impressed by the dedication of President Cox and her staff to making Young Harris a premier NCAA Division II athletics program,” said PBC Board Chair Dr. Kendall Blanchard of Georgia Southwestern State University. “The vision they have and the groundwork that has been laid are outstanding. It is with pleasure that we invite Young Harris to the Peach Belt family.”

Young Harris College is transitioning into NCAA Division II and is a candidacy year one member.  When they become conference members, 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.  YHC 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 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 (1872) and North Georgia (1873).

 

Originally established as a four-year college, Young Harris was a two-year college for nearly a century until it received accreditation in 2008 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate degrees.  The school is also endorsed by The United Methodist Church and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, and its teacher preparation program is approved by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Since 2008, it has added academic programs at a rapid pace and doubled its faculty. YHC has also seen record enrollment for the past five years.

Cathy Cox, J.D., former Secretary of State in Georgia, was named the college’s 21st president in 2007 and has overseen the four-year transformation and growth of the campus, including the addition of a LEED Silver-certified residence hall and The Village apartments for upperclassmen, along with the LEED-certified Recreation and Fitness Center with its new 1,100-seat basketball arena as well as a new lighted, 12-court tennis complex.

Cox also brought in Randy Dunn as athletics director, who transitioned North Georgia from NAIA to NCAA Division II and Peach Belt Conference membership prior to arriving at YHC in 2010.  Under Dunn’s leadership, Young Harris reinstated its men’s basketball program after a 40-year hiatus and established a women’s basketball program.  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 recently announced that it will add men’s and women’s lacrosse in 2012.

 

Prior to the four-year transition, YHC’s athletic teams competed successfully in the National Junior College Athletic Association. The Mountain Lions claimed the 2006 NJCAA national championship in women’s soccer, the same season head coach Kathy Brown was named national Coach of the Year. In 2007, head coach Rick Robinson led Young Harris College’s baseball team to the Junior College World Series.

“We are extremely honored to be given the opportunity 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.”

Founded in 1991, the Peach Belt Conference is the home to 30 NCAA Division II National Championships, including the 2011 women’s basketball title won by Clayton State University.  The PBC hosts 13 championship sports with 14 members in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama.