Bryant Joins Southland Conference as Affiliate Member In Four Sports
Bryant University Press Release
SMITHFIELD, RI – The Bryant University Athletics Department is pleased to announce that four sports will join the Southland Conference as affiliate members effective July 1, 2022. The announcement was made today by Bryant Director of Athletics Bill Smith and Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant.
Bryant will begin play as affiliate members of the Southland Conference in the sports of men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis. Women’s golf will begin their first season competing as a varsity sport in the fall of 2022.
“Bryant University is honored to be affiliate members of the Southland Conference and thrilled that four of our teams will have the opportunity to compete for a championship as members of this prestigious conference,” said Smith. “I would like to thank Commissioner Grant for providing a new home for our Bulldog men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis teams.”
Full members of the Southland Conference include Houston Baptist University, University of the Incarnate Word, McNeese State University, University of New Orleans, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Affiliate members include Augusta University (Men’s and Women’s Golf), Delaware State University (Women’s Golf), Francis Marion University (Men’s Golf), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Women’s Golf) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (Men’s and Women’s Tennis).
“The Southland membership is on a mission to elevate our brand nationally by aligning with institutions and leaders who prioritize excellence in academics and athletics,” Southland Commissioner Chris Grant said. “A dynamic Division I institution and an extraordinary leader, like Bryant University and Bill Smith, committed to joining our membership as affiliated members in four sports, complements our Conference’s strength and unwavering support to ensure NCAA Championships access for all student-athletes. We welcome the Bryant University men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis student-athletes, coaches, and staff to the Southland Conference.”
Bryant men’s tennis has enjoyed incredible success at the Division I level, having won 170 games since 2008 under 17th-year head coach Ron Gendron. In that span, the Bulldogs went 47-4 against Northeast Conference opponents and won six-straight NEC Championships (2014-2019), qualifying for six NCAA Tournaments.
Bryant women’s tennis is coming off a historic championship run of its own this past season, winning its second NEC Championship before facing No. 2 national seed Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs also won the NEC in 2015 and advanced to the championship match in five of their final seven years in the NEC.
Men’s golf is one of the most tradition-rich programs at Bryant, having won 22 conference championships and qualifying for 33 NCAA Tournaments at the DII and DI level. The Bulldogs won NEC Championships in 2014 and 2017, and have finished in the top two at the league championships in five of the last eight years.
Bryant’s women’s golf program will be debuting as a varsity sport this fall at Bryant.
In April, Bryant University announced the school will become members of the America East Conference in men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, cross country and track & field, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s swimming and diving. Football will begin competing as members of the Big South Conference in 2022.
Ron Gendron – Head Men’s Tennis Coach – “It was a great experience to have had the success we had in the NEC. That being said, we are looking forward to a new challenge with a new place to call home in the Southland.”
Barbara Cilli – Head Women’s Tennis Coach – “We are excited about what a transition like this means for Bryant as a whole, and for its tennis programs. Being in the Southland Conference will provide us added exposure and a new level of tennis. We are up for the challenge. Go Bulldogs!”
Charlie Blanchard – Head Men’s Golf Coach – “We are very excited to be joining the Southland Conference. This high-quality competition will ignite the best in our student-athletes. We look forward to this new challenge. It’s a great day to be a Bulldog!”
Nick Drago – Head Women’s Golf Coach – “Joining the Southland Conference is a tremendous opportunity for our budding women’s golf program. The Southland Conference is rich in golf history and will be a great home for our women to compete and hone their skills in a competitive environment. This opportunity will allow us to grow on a national scale. I am excited for the challenge ahead.”
More on the Southland Conference
The 2022-23 Southland Conference men’s tennis lineup will include Bryant, New Orleans, NJIT, Nicholls, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, while the Bryant women will compete against McNeese, New Orleans, NJIT, New Orleans, Nicholls, Northwestern State, Southeastern and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The 2023 Southland Tennis Tournaments will be held April 21-23 at Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the winner will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The 2023 Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships will be held, April 17-19 and April 24-26, respectively, at sites to be announced later this month.