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UHV to join Red River Conference in 2015

By MIKE FORMAN
May 22, 2014 at 12:22 a.m.


Ashley Walyuchow is accustomed to fielding inquiries about the UHV athletic program.

But the athletic director will finally be able to give the answer he wants to the most frequently posed question.

"It's funny every time we're asked, 'Are you in the Red River?' Our answer has always been, 'No,'" Walyuchow said. "While it makes perfect sense - you're right there. Now we can say, 'Yes, we are members of the Red River.'"

UHV has accepted an invitation to join the Red River Athletic Conference beginning with the 2015-2016 academic year.

The membership comes without any regular season or postseason restrictions.

"The competition is great," Walyuchow said during a news conference Thursday at the UHV athletic office. "We already play a number of schools in all of our sports. I don't anticipate any drop-off there."

UHV began competing in NAIA athletics in 2008 and has been a member of the Association of Independent Institutions since 2009.

UHV is currently the only NAIA school in South Texas not competing the Red River Athletic Conference.

UHV had attempted to join the conference in the past but had been rebuffed because of the absence of a basketball program.

The Jaguars field teams in baseball, softball, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's golf.

"In the past, without basketball - it has historically been a basketball conference - that's kind of been a sticking point," Walyuchow said. "We were finally able to move away from that direction and show the value we bring to the Red River."

LSU-Alexandria, which competed in the AII with UHV, will join the Red River Athletic Conference for the upcoming school year.

UHV will become the 13th member of the conference, which was founded in 1998.

Red River Athletic Conference schools do not compete in every sport, but scheduling will become much easier for Walyuchow and the coaches.

"The biggest thing is just going to be the time not spent scheduling," said men's and women's soccer coach Adrian Rigby. "We're guaranteed so many games and kind of filling in the void early on in the season before we do start conference play."

Rigby expects conference membership to be a plus in recruiting players.

"I think for a lot of the club coaches and high school coaches who maybe send players off to Red River schools, it gives them a little bit of identity and terms of evaluating the level of talent," he said. "A lot of coaches haven't seen our team play. If they've sent a player off to another school that's had success - it's a leveling stick for evaluating talent. I think that will help us out."

Walyuchow is excited about the athletic possibilities in the conference. But he also recognizes the academic and financial benefits the move will bring.

"Where I think it will benefit our student-athletes particularly is the scheduling and the missed class time," he said. "Without having to make lengthy journeys to find games.

"A lot of these trips will be day trips instead of overnight trips. A bus trip to Dallas is a lot more palatable than a bus trip to Lawrenceville, Ga."

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