Wasps preparing for transition into DII play

The Emory & Henry football team will play its last season as a member of the ODAC and NCAA DIII this year. However, because the Wasps are transitioning to DII, the team will be ineligible for the ODAC title.

EMORY — Emory & Henry football coach Curt Newsome has coached at almost every NCAA level.

As an assistant, Newsome served on the staff of Virginia Tech’s legendary Frank Beamer for seven years at the FBS level.

He also coached in two separate stints at the FCS level at James Madison.

For the past seven years, Newsome has piloted the E&H program at the DIII level.

This season Newsome and the Wasps will begin the transition from DIII level and the Old Dominion Athletic Conference to DII and the South Athletic Conference.

E&H received formal approval from the NCAA earlier this year to begin the three-year process of moving from DIII to DII.

In the upcoming year, the Wasps will still compete within the ODAC, but they will not be eligible for any conference championships.

In the fall of 2022, E&H will move to the DII SAC for two provisional years before becoming a full DII and conference member in 2024.

GETTING READY

Preparation for the upcoming season will not be much different than previous years, Newsome said.

Even though the Wasps will not be eligible to win the ODAC trophy, the veteran coach said that does not mean they will not be gunning to run the table in the conference.

“You like to think you have guys on the football team that like to compete,” he said. “We won’t be able to win the ODAC championship if we win. But if we win the conference, we want to get a trophy for the guys who won it.”

The same will be the case in the SAC in the 2022 and 2023 provisional years for the Wasps.

The offseason heading into the fall has been the strongest for E&H in terms of recruiting. It’s all geared toward moving into the DII realm.

“We certainly have guys here that can play Division II football,” Newsome said.

And the coach feels like his staff has brought in more guys that can play at the DII level.

“We’ve brought in 104 freshmen and transfers,” Newsome said. “We might have to increase the size of our locker room or figure something out, but we’re going to be ready.”

Newsome said many from the class of 100-plus will redshirt this year while preparing to make an impact for the Wasps at the next level.

One of the reasons for the huge recruiting class this year is the opening of the geographic range Newsome’s staff has experienced in making provisions for the move to DII status.

“We will never go away from Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia as our core recruiting area. But moving to DII has allowed us to find athletes elsewhere, like the Northern Virginia, Tidewater and Charlotte areas.”

JOINING THE SAC

The move to DII and another conference is a big one for E&H. The Wasps were a charter member of the ODAC, which was formed in 1976.

Playing football in the SAC will be a tough challenge for any program, Newsome said.

“I don’t think they take a back seat to anybody in America,” the coach said when asked about the competition level of the conference.

He is excited about the possibility of the renewal of rivalries within the SAC against regional foes like UVA Wise, Mars Hill, Carson-Newman and Tusculum.

“We know we have some catching up to do,” Newsome said.

“But we’re looking forward to it.”

E&H will begin its final DIII football season on Sept. 4 at North Carolina Wesleyan before hosting Bluefield College on Sept. 11.

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