The Midwest Collegiate Conference neighborhood rivalry between the Ashford Saints and St. Ambrose Fighting Bees has a year to live after MCC presidents voted Tuesday to limit conference membership to not-for-profit schools, starting in July of 2012.
That means Ashford — which then as Mount St. Clare College was one of six founding league members in 1988 — will be out of the MCC when the 2012 fall sports seasons begin.
Also out as a result of a 7-2 Tuesday morning conference-call vote of member school presidents is Waldorf College of Forest City, Iowa.
In a statement released by the university, Ashford athletic director Meg Schebler expressed disappointment with the decision but pointed to opportunities for new conference and/or national affiliations.
She said the school on the Clinton, Iowa, hilltop will continue to compete in 17 sports as a member in good standing of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Since 2005, the former Catholic college has been owned by Bridgeport Education, which through Ashford and the
University of the Rockies, offers degrees in the classroom as well as online.
Waldorf, a former junior
college, is owned by Mayes Education, which offers online degrees.
St. Ambrose athletic director Ray Shovlain and MCC commissioner Rick Sanders both said the decision superceded athletics.
“It is just kind of philosophical differences,” said Shovlain, who is the SAU men’s basketball coach. “Athletics is just a part of it.”
Sanders said athletics were not discussed in Tuesday’s conversation between the nine school presidents.
“I really didn’t take today as an athletic decision,” he said. “Obviously, it impacts us as an athletic conference, but it was more who institutions want to be affiliated and aligned with.”
Shovlain did concede competitive balance was an issue
“What it really comes down to is their ability to offer significantly more as far as financial aid and scholarships,” he said, adding corporately funded schools also have the opportunity to offer enhanced facilities. “I really feel we can compete with whoever personally at Ambrose, but they are at a distinct advantage.”
Facility upgrades at Ashford in recent years include the construction of a soccer and track complex on the site of the former Clinton Country Club.
The school also purchased the former YMCA tennis center and a downtown Clinton hotel for use as student dormitory.
Shovlain said Ambrose teams might continue to schedule contests vs. Ashford.
“I would think so unless they feel differently,” he said.
Second-year Ashford men’s basketball coach Oliver Drake deferred comment to the school’s information officer.