WHAT DOES BELLARMINE'S ENTRY TO DI ATHLETICS MEAN TO UOFL WOMEN'S SPORTS?
Unless you've just come out of a coma or been recently returned to earth by an alien spacecraft, you're probably well aware the Bellarmine University is joining NCAA DI Athletics. The formal announcement will be made today (Tuesday) at 11:30 a.m.
The Knights are joining the Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) and will become the tenth institution in that conference. Their conference mates are Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Lipscomb, NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology), North Alabama, North Florida and Stetson.
Bellarmine leaves D II competition in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).
Since we are a women's athletics fan site, I'll concentrate in today's article about the women's side of Bellarmine's athletics.
Bellarmine currently has 10 women's athletic squads competing in D II and we would guess that all ten will carry over to the Atlantic Sun. Those sports are basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field and volleyball. Bellarmine does not have a women's lacrosse team, maybe surprising...since men's lacrosse was the only DI competing program on campus prior to today's announcement.
But, Louisville doesn't field a DI men's lacrosse program...so it'll be interesting to see if the Knights make the commitment to take on the sport (of if the Cards move to create a DI men's lacrosse squad.) In the ASUN, only four of the nine programs currently compete in WLAX (Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Liberty and Stetson). Kent State, Howard and Coastal Carolina are "out-of-conference" squads who are in the seven-team alliance.
The city of Louisville now matches Cincinnati with two D I college athletic programs. UC and Xavier have built up quite the rivalry over the years and one has to wonder if the same type of "cross-town" competition will develop between the Knights and Cards.
Let's look at the ten women's sports that Louisville and Bellarmine both compete in and examine possible competition between the two schools.
|"C.B." is now CW?|
-- They last met in 1999 and Louisville holds a 10-2 record advantage. My guess is that Chance will want to recruit for DI a few years to build up an already impressive roster before inquiring about openings in Jeff Walz's schedule.
-- Former Cardinal great Candyce (Bingham) Wheeler is an assistant coach for Bellarmine WBB.
-- Jeff Walz has shown a willingness to play mid-majors over the years with games against Tennessee-Martin, Tennessee State, Hartford, Houston Baptist, Chattanooga and Marist. The Cards have played ASUN member Liberty twice....the last time in 2009 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
There is previous interaction between Louisville and Bellarmine's women's cross country squads in the annual Greater Louisville Invitational and in several NCAA Regional events...so we see that continuing.
The ASUN doesn't have a Field Hockey conference of their own. Liberty competes in the Big East. Whether Bellarmine decides to explore conference affiliation there or maybe with the MCA, CAA or other conference remains to be seen. Louisville Field Hockey regularly schedules mid-majors ( Miami, OH, Longwood, Kent State) so if Bellarmine goes for a DI conference, the thoughts here are that Justine Sowry would welcome a match against the Knights...
|Chancellor Dugan is BU's WBB head coach|
All nine of the ASUN Conference schools compete in women's soccer, so we'll figure Bellarmine will, too. The Cards only get 7-8 non-conference matches a year, due to the heavy ACC commitments, but have played a wide variety of out-of-conference schools during Karen Ferguson Dayes time at Louisville. I could see an early season match between the two down the road.
|Few could "mow 'em down" like Maryssa Becker...|
Add to the fact that Cardinal pitching ace Maryssa Becker is an assistant coach for Bellarmine. (Let's just be glad she's used up her eligibility...Cardinal batters might have a rough go of it against her.)
No official announcement yet or where Bellarmine swimmer will compete (the ASUN doesn't have a swimming conference) but the CCSA (Coastal College Sports Association) is likely. Three ASUN schools compete there already and the ASUN is one of the associations official partners. The chance of the Cards and Knights matching up in dual meet is always possible down the road but Bellarmine may want to wait a bit and get a solid core of DI athletes on roster first is my assumption.
Possibilities exist here for dual matches (the Cards faced Northern Kentucky, Furman and Charleston Southern last year) and various regional invitationals and classics could include both schools.
TRACK AND FIELD
A sport where matchups already exist. Bellarmine participates in the Lenny Lyles/Clark Wood Invitational each spring on the Belknap campus and at the Kentucky Invitational (along with Louisville) in April. We fully expect to see those interactions continue.
All nine ASUN conference members play volleyball (they even play beach volleyball) so we'd expect Bellarmine to be the 10th team. The Cards like to have a couple of classics and in-season tournaments each year where they bring in multiple schools and I can see Bellarmine getting an invite to participate in one of those when space allows. The key, once again, is building a roster suited for DI instead of GLVC level competition.
So... welcome to DI, Bellarmine! We hope that this venture grows consistently and favorably. A budding potential rivalry in many DI spots awaits you with Louisville and the Louisvillians who sponsor and support either or both school's athletic programs eagerly await "Knights vs. Cardinals" !
A step up to the next level of competition can take time. I hope that our readers will be supportive, encouraging and attend some Bellarmine women's athletic events in addition to your Cardinal support. I know some of you do already. I get to 2-3 Bellarmine WBB games a year and plan on upping that number. I've watched Bellarmine Field Hockey, Soccer and Softball as well in the past.
Join me and the CARDINAL COUPLE crew in welcoming our city's newest NCAA DI School and get out and spend "a few days and nights" with the Knights when you can.