May 4, 2005
Americus - Georgia Southwestern State University hopes to be feeling peachy very soon.
The Americus school has applied to join the Peach Belt Conference and if accepted it means the Hurricanes would leave the NAIA and join the NCAA at the Division II level.
Georgia Southwestern was turned down for membership by the Peach Belt Conference eight years ago because the conference wanted to keep its membership at 12 schools.
Kennesaw State and North Florida are leaving the conference when they move to Division I.
So, the Peach Belt is looking for two new members and the have asked Georgia Southwestern to re-apply for membership.
Georgia Southwestern is currently a member of the Southern States Athletic Conference in the NAIA.
Athletic director and GSW head basketball coach Randolph Barksdale says that the NAIA is fine for private colleges and universities but that Georgia Southwestern will benefit from joining a conference that already has six fellow members of the University System of Georgia including Georgia College and Columbus State.
Athletic programs Barksdale would love to see become arch-rivals of the Hurricanes.
Randolph Barksdale said "When I say private and public, It is not anything against the NAIA. It is just smaller schools. Their mission is different than the public institutions. And it puts us in parity in schools that we have everything in common with in the University System.
Peach Belt commissioner Martin Vanover will lead a conference delegation to tour Georgia Southwestern's facilities later this month.
That tour will include the new $22 million Student Success Center that will open this summer and serve as the home for the Georgia Southwestern athletic department.
The center has a 3,000 seat arena for basketball, fitness center, training areas and locker rooms.
GSW President Michael Hanes will then make a presentation at the conference's meeting in early June when the decision will be made whether to extend an invitation for Georgia Southwestern to join the Peach Belt conference.