Franciscan Athletics to join PAC

ELISHA VALLADARES-CORMIER
CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST

Franciscan University of Steubenville will become the 10th full member of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, the conference’s commissioner announced at a press conference in the Finnegan Fieldhouse on Tuesday.

“We are thrilled to have Franciscan join the PAC family,” PAC Commissioner Joe Onderko said. “Today, we are a better conference in every way.”

Franciscan, currently a member of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, will begin a process to become a full member of the PAC in the fall of 2020. Its 17 NCAA varsity teams will all be in the same athletic conference for the first time since beginning NCAA competition in 2007.

The PAC is an NCAA Division III conference comprised of nine full-member schools from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Franciscan Athletic Director Mike Holmes said the biggest motivation for switching conferences was the centrality of the other member teams compared to the schools in the AMCC.

Holmes said the distance to the to the university’s farthest competitor in the PAC is approximately as far as the closest competitor in the AMCC and estimated that $70,000 would be saved in travel expenses by moving to the PAC.

The announcement marked “a day for great celebration and excitement,” Holmes said.

“In addition to the geographical advantages, it gives us a relationship with schools that really share our academic profile,” said Holmes. “We are very excited to be around what we consider to be like academic institutions.”

Franciscan has been a member of the AMCC since 2008 — during its probationary period in the NCAA — but both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams began competing in the PAC last semester. The university’s women’s golf and men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field will join the PAC beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, and the other 13 teams will join in the fall of 2020.

During the press conference, Onderko thanked Holmes, who will be leaving Franciscan at the end of the year to become the athletic director at St. Ambrose University in Iowa, for his part in bringing Franciscan to the PAC.

“The addition of Franciscan as a full PAC member makes us a better academic conference, raises the bar of competitions, and it strengthens us by adding a full member that shares our culture and principles,” Onderko said.