Updated Mon, Dec 16, 2013 12:04 pm
Starting in 2014-15, the Rio Grande RedStorm athletic program is set to become members of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC).
The RedStorm Athletics have sought a permanent home for a number of years. After the 2008-09 athletic season, Rio made the move from the American Mideast Conference to the Mid-South Conference, which is made up of schools mostly from Kentucky.
The RedStorm nearly found themselves in the KIAC at this time, but chose to test their capabilities in the MSC.
In Rio’s time in the MSC, the men’s cross country team won an outright title (2010), the baseball team won an MSC tournament title (2010) and the men’s soccer team won conference championships in 2010, 2012, and 2013.
According to athletic director Jeff Lanham, Rio has been considering what conference would fit best for them for a number of years, with several factors coming into play.
Issues like travel, scholarships and the athletic budget factored in. Ultimately, the RedStorm seem to like the prospective possibilities.
“After four years of being in the Mid-South, we wanted to see how the University of Rio Grande… related to schools in the mid-south and schools in the KIAC,” Lanham said.
The biggest differences in the sports may very well be seen with the women and men’s basketball teams.
The NAIA D-II RedStorm basketball teams have played against programs that were able to offer 11 scholarships, while only offering six themselves. Now with the move to the KIAC, they will better match up with their conference opponents.
Lenham said that Rio had more in common with schools in the KIAC. The coaching situations at these schools in particular played a role in the desire for change.
“Many of the schools, if not all of the schools, in the Mid-South have full-time coaches that do nothing but coach those teams” Lenham said. “In the KIAC, it’s more like us where the coaches do multiple jobs here and, you know, are not considered a full-time coach.”
KIAC commissioner Bill Melton expressed excitement with the conference’s new pickup.
“Four years ago or so, they decided to join the Mid-South Conference at that time, and they were reassessing the situation they were in and decided to look around at other conferences again,” Melton said. “And this time they chose us, and I think it’s going to be a really good fit.”
Rio actually was a member of the conference prior to 1971, the year in which they moved to the Mid-Ohio Conference.
Graduate Assistant Ryan Chapman of the Rio baseball team reiterated a sentiment that several coaches seem to maintain, saying, “I do think we enter the KIAC with a target on our back. If we continue to grow as a team and our guys continue to develop as we expect them, we could be very good for the next few years. That is something to be excited for.”
Rio Grande’s 11 varsity sports: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball, softball, baseball.
The RedStorm will join the following teams in the KIAC: Alice Lloyd College, Asbury University, Brescia University, and Midway College who are all located in Kentucky. Indiana University-East, Indiana University-Southeast and Indiana University-Kokomo represent the Hoosier state. Carlow University and Point Park University are Pennsylvania schools, and Cincinnati Christian will be the only other Ohio team.