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MELBOURNE, FLORIDA - The Sunshine State Conference formally welcomed Palm Beach Atlantic University as a full conference member on Thursday (August 10, 2017). The addition along with the acceptance of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as a full member brings the membership to 11 institutions, all in the state of Florida.
"Palm Beach Atlantic University is honored to officially join the Sunshine State Conference - the premier academic and athletic conference in NCAA Division II," stated Palm Beach Atlantic President William M.B. Fleming, Jr. "Our student-athletes are the true beneficiaries of our SSC membership as they compete for championships at the highest level with students equally committed to academic excellence and community engagement. Our conference membership is a significant vote of confidence in the strategic improvements being made in Sailfish athletics."
The Sailfish have been a longtime competitor against schools in the SSC since becoming a NCAA Division II institution in 2007. PBA has competed in the South Region as an Independent since that time. Starting this fall the Sailfish will now be eligible for all championships and awards that are given out by the conference as well as automatic berths into national championship events.
Despite not having a conference affiliation the Sailfish have thrived recently with three region championships and three elite eight appearances. The volleyball team was the 2015 NCAA Division II national runner-up.
"Sunshine State Conference membership has long been a desire of Palm Beach Atlantic University," commented Carolyn Stone, Palm Beach Atlantic Director of Athletics. "The opportunity for our student-athletes to compete at the highest level of NCAA Division II, coupled with the outstanding academic reputation of the conference's member institutions, is transformational for Sailfish Athletics. The membership process has made us a better Division II institution. I want to thank President Fleming, the Board of Trustees, donors, and staff who have worked tirelessly for this achievement. I am so excited for our student-athletes to fully compete as conference members and for the many ways this membership will positively impact our University."
In the classroom the Sailfish have produced 224 SSC Commissioner's Honor Roll student-athletes in the past two years as well as earning 13 CoSIDA Academic All-District selections and three CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
As a provisional member of the SSC in 2016-17 the Sailfish were eligible for postseason tournaments in the conference, earning berths in men's soccer, men's basketball and men's tennis. The men's soccer team claimed the No. 1 seed in the tournament while the men's basketball team advanced to the championship game.
"This is a historic day for the conference," stated Dr. Ronald L. Vaughn, chair of the SSC Presidents Council and President at the University of Tampa. "Today marks the completion of an expansion process that started nearly four years ago. We are very pleased to be where we are today."
Embry-Riddle and Palm Beach Atlantic both went through a three-year provisional membership period with the SSC. Embry-Riddle also served a concurrent provisional membership with NCAA Division II due to a transition from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Each school's provisional agreements required each institution to meet certain requirements before becoming full non-conditional conference members.
Founded in 1975, the Sunshine State Conference has risen from a single sports organization to the Division II "Conference of National Champions." Since its inception, the conference has shown steady growth in sports played, membership, and national prominence. In 42 years, member institutions have won a total of 102 NCAA national championships across 12 sports. During the 2016-17 academic year, SSC schools won three national titles and achieved a NCAA Division II best 86% Academic Success Rate. The SSC consists of 11 member institutions, all within the state of Florida: Barry University (Miami Shores), Eckerd College (St. Petersburg), Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach), Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne), Florida Southern College (Lakeland), Lynn University (Boca Raton), Nova Southeastern University (Ft. Lauderdale), Palm Beach Atlantic University (West Palm Beach), Rollins College (Winter Park), Saint Leo University (Saint Leo), and the University of Tampa.
Palm Beach Atlantic University is a private, independent university offering undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in West Palm Beach, Orlando and online. The University is dedicated to the integration of Christian principles to prepare students for learning, leadership and service.