The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is expanding its footprint into South Carolina.

The NCAA Division II league, which includes Fayetteville State University, announced Wednesday it has accepted Claflin University from Orangeburg, South Carolina as its 13th member. Currently a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Claflin will withdraw from that conference to officially join the CIAA on July 1, 2018.

"It is my pleasure to welcome Claflin University's student-athletes, administration, staff, alumni, and fans to the CIAA," Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said in a statement released by the league. "The institution is a fit for our conference based on their location within our demographic region and commitment to sponsoring sports programs that bring competitive and championship growth in the CIAA. They will expand our footprint into the South Carolina market, reinforce our commitment to the student-athlete experience and employ strategies that engage alumni and fans within the region to support our mission and vision."

Claflin sponsored sports programs in 10 of the 14 championship sports offered by the CIAA. The Panthers won the SIAA men's basketball title this season and have traditionally been strong in that sport. The school does not, however, field a football program.

This marks the second expansion by the CIAA since 2010. The league added Lincoln University in Pennsylvania to it membership that year.

FSU chancellor James A. Anderson said adding Claflin will help expand the CIAA's reach geographically and athletically.

"The CIAA is committed to sponsoring a range of male and female sports programs that bring competitive and championship growth within the conference and to the regions that all our participating schools represent," Anderson said. "The CIAA will seek to sponsor additional men's sports like baseball and tennis to maintain a healthy number of automatic qualifications. The addition of Claflin University allows the conference to facilitate this goal while expanding our geographical footprint."

Claflin will be eligible for CIAA competition starting in the 2018-19 academic year.

 

Staff writer Sammy Batten can be reached at sbatten@fayobserver.com or 486-3434.