A newly-formed consortium of eight NCAA women’s bowling programs, including Valparaiso University, have agreed to compete as the Southland Bowling League beginning in 2015, with the immediate goals of competing at the highest level and automatically qualifying for NCAA Championship in the near future.
The Southland Bowling League include the teams from Sam Houston State University (2014 NCAA Champion), Stephen F. Austin State University, Arkansas State University (2008 NCAA runner-up), Louisiana Tech University, Monmouth (N.J.) University, Tulane University, Valparaiso University and Vanderbilt University (2007 NCAA Champion, 2011 and 2013 NCAA runner-up).
“The Southland Bowling League is an exciting opportunity for these eight institutions to be a part of the continued growth of collegiate women’s bowling,” said SBL Executive Director Stephanie McDonald. “These schools have a strong competitive history, including two national championships. We look forward to a great league that will provide quality competition and national championship opportunities for these student-athletes.”
The Southland Bowling League will not conduct regular-season competition, but will instead hold a single championship tournament, the inaugural 2015 event being held at Del Mar Lanes in Houston, on March 21-22. The competitive format will be similar to the one followed at the NCAA Championship. By formalizing as league, the association can qualify for an NCAA automatic bid no later than the 2017 national championship. Until an automatic qualification is provided, Southland Bowling League members will be at-large candidates for the NCAA Championship.
The collection of Southland Bowling League members immediately makes it one of the top consortiums in the sport. The 2014-15 preseason poll compiled by the National Tenpin Coaches Association (NTCA) had six of the eight teams in its Top 20, including No. 2 Arkansas State, No. 3 Sam Houston State, No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 9 Stephen F. Austin, No. 15 Valparaiso, No. 20 Monmouth, as well as a seventh team, Tulane, receiving votes. Additionally, in 2013-14 the NTCA honored Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Vanderbilt, Valparaiso and Tulane for achieving team grade point averages of at least 3.2.
“We are very excited to be part of the Southland Bowling League,” said Crusader head coach Matt Nantais. “I believe we will have one of the stronger conferences in the NCAA. We look forward to having the opportunity to compete for a conference championship as well as a national championship. The Southland Bowling League is also giving us an opportunity to win an automatic qualifier for the national championship once the new qualifying format goes in place.”
While the Southland Conference will provide administrative oversight of this new association, the Southland Bowling League will operate independently from regular conference operations.