WHEELING - West Liberty University will compete in a new conference next season will continue to have longtime rival Wheeling Jesuit by its side. The formation of the Mountain East Conference was announced Monday and will include both of the Upper Ohio Valley institutions, as well as Urbana, Notre Dame College, the University of Virginia at Wise, Charleston, Concord, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Shepherd, West Virginia State and W.Va. Wesleyan.
''We are extremely pleased to announce the formation of the Mountain East Conference,'' spokesperson Reid Amos said on behalf of the 12 presidents of the new alliance. ''The goal of this effort has been to align like-minded institutions with similar budgets and goals across a regional footprint.
''We strongly believe that our charter membership creates a solid foundation that provides mutual benefit and secures the athletic future for our institutions. We will collectively make every effort to provide a high-quality experience for our student-athletes in Mountain East competition.''
West Liberty will be playing football in the newly formed Mountain East Conference, which will begin competing during the 2013-14 academic year.
The announcement comes just more than two months after the football-playing members of the West Virginia Conference made it known they were splitting away from the schools that don't offer the sport, including Wheeling Jesuit. The Cardinals will be the lone member of the newly formed league that does not offer football.
''I think when things first happened, they probably were too quick,'' Wheeling Jesuit athletics director Dan Sancomb said. ''Cooler heads always prevail and this seems to be best fit for our institution.
''I think we're attractive. Our academics alone are second to none.''
West Liberty president Robin Capehart said a consulting firm, the same one that helped with the creation of the Great American and Great Midwest Athletic conferences, was hired.
That firm determined that 12 schools was the ideal number and that you should have at least 10 football-playing schools.
''First of all, there was a lot of support for WJU,'' Capehart said. ''Wheeling Jesuit has always been competitive and we obviously have a great basketball rivalry.
''They fit the characteristics everyone was looking for.''
Part of the idea for the presidents of the defecting WVC schools was to get their footprints in other parts of the country, and this partnership does that. Both Urbana and Notre Dame are located in Ohio, and Wise of course, in Virginia.
However, the Mountain East did lose its Pennsylvania representation. Seton Hill and Pitt-Johnstown will become members of the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (PSAC) next year.
UVa.-Wise and Urbana were scheduled to compete in the G-MAC, beginning in 2013, and Notre Dame is an NCAA Division II Independent competing in five of its 22 sports as an affiliate member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).
Capehart said he wasn't surprised in how quickly this came together.
''Not really. The reason being, I've been involved for about five years and there's been differences of opinion and perspective,'' he said. ''Conversations have been taking place ever since Virginia-Wise was not accepted as a member (of the WVC).
''You've got a group of presidents, not just in athletics, you could tell they wanted to take action. We want to be in a conference where year-in, year-out, our champion is expected to be competing for national championships.
''When we talk about commitment, we're not talking a win-at-all-costs mentality. We have a group of presidents that set a high standard of excellence all over campus. We wanted to find like-minds that set that high standard.
The Mountain East Conference intends to begin competing during the 2013-14 academic year, but member schools will remain active with their current conferences until they would be able to compete as a conference within the NCAA. The move will not affect any athletics schedules for 2012-13.
With current sports sponsorship, the Mountain East Conference will meet the NCAA requirement for a conference championship in 16 sports, including: Men's and Women's Basketball, Baseball, Men's and Women's Cross Country, Football, Men's and Women's Golf, Men's and Women's Soccer, Softball, Men's and Women's Tennis, Men's and Women's Track, and Volleyball.
Sancomb said a lot will change, but it's all for the greater good. He especially likes that Wheeling Jesuit will get to keep a number of its rivals, including West Liberty.
''We looked at a bunch of different options'' including moving to Division I, Sancomb said. ''I'm excited but I'm sad with the WVIAC and the history, it's been a great league.
''I'm excited for what this league stands for. We will have a lot to say with how it's going to look in the future with being a charter member.
Alderson-Broaddus, which will offer football as a club sport this season, has joined the Great Midwest Athletic Conference for next year. Alderson-Broaddus is adding 10 sports in the next two years, including football.
That leaves Bluefield, Davis & Elkins and Ohio Valley as the lone former WVC members without a home beyond this year.
Capehart said the next step is ''to go through the process of drafting a new constitution and bylaws, which we hope will be in 2-3 weeks. Once that is done, we then set out finding a commissioner.''