2015 Tournament Information

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Welcome to Herald-Standard’s information pages for the 2015 USCAA Tournament. We are proud to be a supporter and promotional partner of the National Championships. We hope you enjoy your time in Fayette County. Best of luck to all the teams!

What is the USCAA National Championships?

For the past seven years the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) has held its basketball National Championships in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The event features 34 of the best small college basketball teams across the country, competing for four separate National Championships during one-week of non-stop action from the campus of Penn State Fayette. The tournament has grown into the largest of twelve National Championships offered by the USCAA.

An athletic association that specializes in increasing the national recognition and postseason opportunities of the country’s small colleges, the USCAA has found a second home in southwest Pennsylvania. With the support of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, Penn State Fayette, tournament presenting sponsor Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, and a number of individuals and businesses in the surrounding community, the tournament has created two and half million dollars of economic impact in the Laurel Highlands region.

As announced prior to last year’s tournament, the USCAA has committed to keeping the tournament in Uniontown through 2018.

“Every year our staff, coaches, and teams look forward to this event,” states USCAA Executive Director Bill Casto. “For so many student-athletes this is the pinnacle of their athletic careers. We feel a deep obligation to those students to make sure this tournament will provide them memories that last a lifetime. The community and staff at Penn State Fayette share that sentiment with us, and for that reason this partnership has been a tremendous success.”

When the USCAA Basketball National Championships moved to Penn State Fayette in 2009, the tournament consisted of three divisions with 30 team’s total. Today, there are 34 teams that make the trip to Uniontown and four separate tournaments hosted simultaneously (Men’s and Women’s Division I & 2). When the tournament kicks off in early March nearly 600 participants will compete in 39 games over a four-day period. That’s roughly 80 hours of basketball from Penn State Fayette’s Main Arena and Maltho Gymnasium.

“The excitement of this tournament is second to none,” remarks Matthew Simms, Chief Operating Office of the USCAA. “You never know what you’re going to see. We had a game last year in which nine tournament records were broken. We had a #8 seed (out of eight) win the Women’s Division I Championship. There are over two-dozen USCAA All-Americans that will be in action from team’s located all across the country. This is the one opportunity where these teams can come together and play in a true postseason tournament. Every year we come away with amazing memories, and this year is sure to be more of the same.”

The variety of states that will have team’s traveling to the tournament is impressive. Schools from the states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire down to North Carolina, Alabama, and Florida, and up through Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin will be represented at the tournament. All of these teams fight each season through a regular season that can span five months hoping to earn the trip to Uniontown. After a long winter of bus rides and hotel stays, teams find their accommodations at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, the tournament’s host hotel, second to none. It’s the type of experience that’s more commonly associated with larger schools and their student-athletes. For the USCAA’s participants, the experience can be the highlight of their athletic careers.

This year the tournament festivities begin on Tuesday March 3rd with the annual USCAA Basketball Skills Competition, presented by Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. The event features a men’s and women’s three-point contest, women’s hot shot competition, and men’s dunk contest. Games begin Wednesday morning and continue until Saturday, when all four championship games are held. Prior to the games on Saturday, the USCAA hosts a Youth Basketball Clinic where coaches work with local youths to enhance their knowledge and skills.

The 2015 USCAA Basketball National Championships offers up another chapter in one of the community’s biggest annual events. The Penn State Fayette men’s and women’s team will be in competition on Wednesday and Thursday evening, respectively. The remaining participants will be announced on February 23rd and 24th.

For more information regarding the championships please visit the USCAA’s Basketball National Championships website at basketball.theuscaa.com

The Emerging USCAA: A growing option for
small colleges in the United States

Contributions from Kevin Wegman & Matthew Simms (USCAA) and Dr. Robert Case, PhD (Old Dominion University)

There are 351 institutions that compete in NCAA Division I basketball in the United States. If asked to name those institutions, you would probably spout out a list a mile long of universities with FBS football programs. There are only 126 of them.

Between the NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA (many consisting of smaller institutions), there are over 1,000 institutions in the United States alone. Add in junior colleges, institutions who belong solely to the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association, and a long list of independent institutions, it is clear that small colleges in our country significantly outnumber those that we see play each week on television.

Each of these small colleges competes for enrollment and tuition dollars, seeking students that they can recruit and retain. Many try to set themselves apart by way of athletic opportunities. For many small colleges, the battle of competing against larger institutions with more significant resources is overwhelming. With more than 250 institutions competing in each division of the NCAA and NAIA, the opportunity for consistent post-season play and recognition is minimal. In the recruiting process, the opportunity to publicize these accomplishments can make a big difference.

The United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) helps to fill a void in intercollegiate athletics. The USCAA was formed in 2001, but has a history that dates back to the 1960s. It was then that ten small colleges met in Charleston, West Virginia to form an organization called the National Little College Athletic Association (later changed to National Small College Athletic Association), as a way to have a national basketball tournament for smaller post-secondary institutions.

The mission of the USCAA is to provide quality athletic competition at a national level for student-athletes who attend small colleges with enrollments less than 3,000 students. The USCAA provides opportunities for small colleges to compete on an equal competitive basis with schools of similar size and athletic budgets. This includes conducting national championships, selecting All-American teams, honoring scholar athletes, providing compliance services, and overseeing eligibility standards for USCAA member schools.

The organization, which hosts National Championships in twelve sports, has seen ebbs and flows in membership and organizational structure during its existence. However, since 2006 they have made monumental gains in quality of tournaments and membership, growing from 42 member colleges then to almost 90 in 2013. “Our growth and success are a testament to our membership,” states Chief Operating Officer Matthew Simms. “For the past eight years, our founding members and new members alike have joined with us to improve the perception of quality of small college institutions and their athletic departments. Additionally, they have worked to ensure that the quality of our tournaments continue to improve.”

The quality of events certainly has improved. Five years ago the USCAA sought to develop a premier event in basketball, its driver for financial success. The association brought together each of its four basketball tournaments (Men’s and Women’s Division I and Division II), hosted at one site, to create a great atmosphere and generate significant economic impact for a region who could re-invest in the USCAA. Today, that event features 34 teams competing for four championships. The event is first-class, housed at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a five-diamond resort in western Pennsylvania whose rooms usually cost four to five times what USCAA teams are charged. The tournament is also coupled with a county-wide festival to provide economic impact and give back to the community.

One of the most important and unique strengths of the USCAA, however, relates to its diversity of membership. The USCAA accepts members with unique organizational structures and educational missions. For example, some USCAA member schools are 2-year private or vocational colleges. Other members are 3-year trade or apprentice schools. Many members are 4-year public colleges and others are 4-year Bible Colleges. The USCAA works cooperatively to ensure that all institutions have a place that they can compete. The association even has a religious policy wherein they strive to schedule championships to accommodate religious observances, including that of Seventh Day Adventists who cannot compete from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.

No other national athletic organization or association has such a variety of member schools with different backgrounds and organizational structures. The defining and common thread of the USCAA is that members are from small colleges who are seeking to participate in national championships while complying with eligibility rules and standards. USCAA member institutions may hold dual membership in other associations such as the NCAA, NAIA, and the National Christian Athletic Association. The USCAA does not intend on competing against other national organizations for members. Instead, they provide cost effective opportunities for those institutions and their student athletes to compete and be recognized.

The USCAA is quickly emerging as a strategic choice for small colleges, as they provide quality service and the opportunity for all stakeholders to meet their objectives. For coaches and administrators, it is an opportunity to tell prospective student athletes that they have a greater opportunity of competing for a championship or receiving student athlete honors. The association serves to meet the varying goals of member institutions and their athletes. “Many schools have found that the USCAA serves as an excellent transition step as they grow their athletic program,” adds Simms. “Institutions that hold dual membership recognize the opportunities for postseason play and student-athlete recognition that the USCAA provides.” Still, the majority of members identify with the mission of the USCAA and realize that membership in an association is a valuable and worthwhile long-term strategy for their college in terms of athletic governance.

Just as members of the NAIA participate in “Champions of Character” and NCCAA members participate in service and mission oriented work, members of the USCAA are encouraged to be ambassadors in their communities. The USCAA website regularly recognizes the outstanding role that member colleges play through outreach and community service. Additionally, the USCAA just launched a program called “Fitness Focus,” which they publicize on their website. This year marks the first phase of the community outreach project, which includes a bi-weekly publication on health, nutrition, and exercise that lead to maximum athletic performance. Phase II and III of the project, which will roll out in 2014, will place USCAA members in front of grade school children to promote healthy lifestyles and nutrition for the athlete.

As the USCAA continues to grow and develop, it is clear that their primary mission will be to provide athletic opportunities and a level playing field for small college athletes. Administrators of the USCAA are committed to providing educational opportunities for future sport administrators as well. During the past five years, a number of undergraduate and graduate sport management students from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, and New York colleges have completed internships and graduate assistantships with the USCAA’s national office.

The future certainly looks bright for small college athletic programs across the country thanks to the USCAA. For more information about the USCAA, please go to www.theuscaa or email info@theuscaa.com.

Berea College Celebrates 1,000 Victories

1,000, grand, kilo, stack or k - no matter how your phrase it, the number 1,000 is an important number in the athletic world. That is especially true with Berea College Men's Basketball. The Mountaineers are off to a respectable start with a 7-2 record and a ranking of 7th in the USCAA - Division I Coaches Poll. The biggest among those seven wins, was the 74-70 victory over #16 Union College (NAIA Preseason Poll) at the 2014 Rainmaker Hospitality Shootout presented by the Comfort Inn and Suites.

Arguably the program's most historic win of the season came on December 2nd over Bryan College. That 74-61 win became the men's basketball program's 1,000 victory. Berea College began sponsoring men's basketball during the 1923-24 academic year. Those original Mountaineers went 12-1 and here coached by John Miller. Over the years, Berea has been led by 15 head coaches and won 20 or more games, seven times. They have gone winless once (1961-62) and their 24 wins in 1998-99 remains the program's most productive season.

Senior, guard, Aaron Ponder also hit the 1,000 mark, scoring his 1,000 career point on December 13 at Indiana University – Kokomo. The Berea native and Madison Southern product becomes the 32nd member of the Mountaineer 1000-Point Club. Ponder has done more than score at Berea, his 19 assists this season gives him a career total of 312; good enough for 15th on that all-time list.

Senior, forward, Tevin Webster got his grand on Monday, January 5 in a victory over Johnson University. The Campbellsville native and Taylor County High School product becomes the 33rdmember of the club. His 50 rebounds so far this season, gives him a career total of 716 and sitting in 9th position on the 500-Rebound Club. He could well move into the Top-5 on the list at his current rate of production.

Ponder and Webster become the third set of teammates to enter the 1,000-point club in the same season; most recently achieved by Kelly Day and Greg Laws during the 2000-2001 campaign. The 1,000-Point Club began in 1957, when Darrell Case became the first Mountaineer to reach the milestone.

CCA Lady Hornets Basketball: Defending C.H.A.M.P.S.

In the historic city of Selma, AL, the tradition of overcoming adversity has been paved in the city streets since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. That’s no different for the women’s basketball team at Concordia College Alabama. The Lady Hornets have four USCAA National Championships since 2006 and are set to go after a fifth, but in a little different fashion. In previous tournaments, the Lady Hornets have been slotted no higher than a seventh seed in the tournament brackets, forcing them to play the top ranked teams in the first round. So far, that has not been a problem for the Lady Hornets, but this year the Lady hornets are at the top of the USCAA Coaches poll at hopes to receive the number one seed in the 2015 USCAA National Championships.

Even though the 2014 Women’s USCAA National Championship trophy went to Selma, AL a year ago, head coach Eric Jackson, Jr. is approaching this year’s tournament with the same mentality as last year. “I don’t look at it like we are defending anything.” Jackson said, “I feel like everyone in the tournament is after the same 2015 Championship trophy. No one can take away what we accomplished last year. But the past is the past. That’s why we have seasons….everyone gets a clean slate.”

With six seniors and two All-Americans on the court this year, the Lady Hornets have the experience needed to make a push in the tournament. Perhaps the biggest asset for the defending champs is the revamped bench from a year ago. Jackson’s recruiting class includes 4 junior college transfers and have been producing at a very high level.

Going from two or three scorers last year, to having multiple offensive weapons on the floor at once was an adjustment for everyone involved. “We had to learn to sacrifice for each other and for the good of the team goal…which is to win,” Jackson said. “Some of our returners had to watch their personal stats decrease to see the wins increase. I think they handled that task flawlessly. Especially, since we were coming off of winning a national title.”

Off the court, the Lady Hornets strive for excellence as well. With a team GPA of a 3.08, they went from one person to qualify for the All-Academic Team to four in one season. “As a coaching staff we always stress the importance of balance,” Jackson explained. “You can’t give 100 percent to just one aspect of your life, but to all of them…academically, athletically, socially, spiritually.” As a reminder to always do our personal bests, we adopted the acronym C.H.A.M.P.S. which stands for Connecting Hoops and Academics to Mold Personal Success.

The top-ranked Lady Hornets look to repeat their championship run from a year ago with a well-defined sense of purpose. The lady Hornets are currently on a 20 game winning streak, which is the longest in school history in any sport. The USCAA National Championships is set start in Uniontown, PA on March 3-7.

All tournament information provided by the USCAA.