“I’m really, really excited; more so than in the past,” Shorter director of athletics Bill Peterson said about the historic year ahead that will be the institution’s second year of candidacy in a three-year transitional process towards becoming a full-fledged NCAA member.
“We’ll be playing on a whole new level of competition,” said Peterson, noting that Shorter is now a member of the tradition-rich Gulf South Conference and will be playing a full GSC schedule in most of the 21 sports Shorter fields. “We know we’ll be the underdog and we’ll be battling for everything we can get.”
The men and women who will be a part of Shorter history, however, will first go through the process of having physicals and checking in to begin the new academic year, all part of complying for the first time under NCAA guidelines.
Shorter’s football, soccer, volleyball and cross country teams will lead the way on Wednesday, while Shorter’s winter and spring sport athletes go through the same start-of-the-new-year process on Aug. 15.
Head coach Phil Jones’ Football Hawks will be the first to take the field for preseason practice when they hit the turf at Ben Brady Field on Thursday. Two days later, the other fall sports teams follow suit.
As required by the rules set forth by the NCAA, all of the teams in all of the sports begin the new year following the NCAA practice guidelines that cover when practices can begin and the procedure for out-of-season workouts.
What the Hawks and Lady Hawks will be preparing for is a quick start to their respective schedules.
The men’s soccer team under the direction of first-year head coach Paulo Neto is first out of the gate when the Hawks play a pair of exhibition matches on August 19 at Darlington School against Talladega and on August 25 at cross-town rival Berry, and then host their season opener August 29 entertaining Reinhardt at Ben Brady Field.
Head coach Jennifer Colley and the women’s soccer team also has a preseason test when the Lady Hawks host Suwanee (Tenn.) for an exhibition on August 21 at Ben Brady at 7 p.m., then begins the season August 30 heading to Florida to square off against Flagler.
Thursday, August 30 is also the date when the Football Hawks kick-off the new season by heading to Buies Creek, N.C. for a 7 p.m. showdown against the NCAA Division I Campbell University Fighting Camels.
Shorter’s volleyball squad joins the fray on August 31 when head coach Jon Moseley’s Lady Hawks return to take part in the two-day Milligan (Tenn.) College Mountain Madness, taking on Columbia (S.C.) and host Milligan on the opening day of the event, then returning September 1 to take on Bryan and Mobile.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams round out the start of a new year on September 1, making the short trip across Rome to run in the Berry Invitational.
Knowing that the final year as an NAIA member was one to remember – SU won three national championships, had three coaches earn National Coach of the Year honors and finished second in the final Directors Cup standings – Peterson feels confident that Shorter Athletics will hit the new NCAA “ground” running.
“What a great year we had,” Peterson said. “It’s a great point from where we can step up even further. The impression I’m getting is that everyone is excited about the new challenge. We’ll run into some adversity, there is no question about that. But I know they all enjoy challenges.”
“The opportunity is there and we’ll get there.”