The anticipation of the last 14 months finally came to fruition on Thursday afternoon when UNC Pembroke athletics department guided 15 of its varsity athletic programs back home as a member of Conference Carolinas.
A member of Conference Carolinas from 1976-92, the Black & Gold lived out its final 16 years as an affiliate of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in the league, before being invited to join the Peach Belt Conference as an NCAA Division II institution in time for the 1992-93 athletics season.
Fifteen of the department’s 16 varsity athletic programs will compete in the 13-team league which is headquartered in Greenville, S.C. Eleven league institutions hail from the Carolinas, including five North Carolina-based colleges and universities. UNCP’s football team will continue as an associate member of the Mountain East Conference.
“With the farthest trip at 300 miles, this is an ideal move for our student-athletes, allowing them to spend less time traveling and more time focusing on their education,” said UNCP chancellor Robin Cummings. “And, as we enter a conference with already-known rivalries, the experience is sure to bring engagement for fans, at a distance where they can travel to support our Braves on the road. UNCP is committed to providing a championship experience to its more than 400 student-athletes, and Conference Carolinas will provide that stage and more.”
Conference Carolinas has a rich tradition in roots that dates back to its inception on Dec. 6, 1930. The NCAA Division II athletics conference presently has member schools located in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Member institutions for the upcoming 2021-22 athletic year are Barton, Belmont Abbey, Chowan, Converse, Emmanuel, Erskine, Francis Marion, King, Lees-McRae, Mount Olive, UNC Pembroke, North Greenville and Southern Wesleyan.
Conference Carolinas is a sole sponsor of 23 sports, which is among the most in all of NCAA Division II. Including the collaboration with the South Atlantic Conference in men’s wrestling and field hockey, along with the new partnership with the Great Midwest Athletic Conference in men's and women's bowling, Conference Carolinas now provides its member institutions sports sponsorship in 27 different sports.
The Braves captured 40 conference championships across their previous stint as a member of the prestigious league, including 11 consecutive conference championships by the men’s track & field team from 1977-87. The softball and wrestling squads both have six Conference Carolinas championships in their stable.
“I could not be more excited to officially welcome Francis Marion and UNC Pembroke as members of Conference Carolinas,” said Conference Carolinas commissioner Chris Colvin. “This is truly an historic day for everyone associated with Conference Carolinas. Both Francis Marion and UNC Pembroke have more than proven why the decision to add them as members is a strong one over the last year as we have been preparing for their arrival. The future is extremely bright for all involved in Conference Carolinas.”