NCAA playoff teams numerous from PSAC
Shepherd’s league change, beginning with the 2019 to 2020 school term, will bring it against some potent competition, as well as some ordinary teams not much different than those found in the Mountain East Conference.
Last season, the football playing strongmen of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference were Shippensburg (10-2 overall), Indiana (13-1), California (9-3), Slippery Rock (8-3), West Chester (9-4), Kutztown (8-3), Bloomsburg (7-4) and Edinboro (7-4).
Indiana, West Chester, Shippensburg and California all were selected to the seven-team Regional playoff field that also had Findlay, Assumption and Shepherd.
In men’s basketball, 10 of the 18 schools that posted winning records.
The Regional champion and Final Eight representative was East Stroudsburg, with an overall mark of 27-6, which included winning the Regional that included West Liberty and Wheeling Jesuit of the Mountain East Conference.
Shippensburg posted a 25-8 record and Indiana was 22-8. Gannon, which defeated Shepherd in a season-opening tournament in Shepherdstown, was 22-10, and West Chester was 22-7.
Kutztown finished with a 21-7 record, and Slippery Rock was 21-9. Edinboro closed with a 18-10 mark, and Bloomsburg was 15-12.
Shepherd, which lost its last three games, had a 16-13 overall record.
One of the reasons brought forward by Shepherd for changing conferences was the especially long travel distances to Urbana (Ohio), Wise (Virginia) and South Euclid (Ohio), where Notre Dame is located.
The distance to Urbana is 389 miles, to Wise is 382 miles and to South Euclid is 310 miles.
When joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, any travel to Erie (Pa.) to play both Mercyhurst and Gannon is 312 miles. It’s 294 miles to Edinboro and 235 miles to Slippery Rock.
Mansfield is 225 miles from Shepherdstown, as is Clarion. East Stroudsburg is 214 miles away, and Lock Haven is a 200-mile distance.
Being in the East Division, Shepherd will not be playing any of the West Division schools in every football season, so a long trek to some of those towns won’t be necessary every fall and winter.
The nearest towns to Shepherd in the Mountain East Conference were Fairmont (170 miles), Buckhannon (218 miles), Glenville (241 miles), Wheeling Jesuit and West Liberty in the Northern Panhandle.
In the new league, Shippensburg is only 54 miles away, with Millersville being 103 miles away and Kutztown 160 miles away.
Traveling to Erie in December, January or February to face Mercyhurst or Gannon could mean snow or falling weather in a city that annually receives over 100 inches of snow in its winter.
The Rams faced Mercyhurst in Erie in the 2010 football playoffs and played on a field ringed with snow that had been scraped off in order to play the game.
All of Shepherd’s women’s teams will face particularly stern competition in their new conference. PSAC teams are well-funded and have fine facilities and many more qualified athletes to choose from in Pennsylvania than Shepherd can locate and recruit from the state of West Virginia. Finding conference championships in women’s sports for the Shepherd teams will likely be a herculean task.