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Looking back at SSU’s entry into the River States Conference

Maggie Kayt Franks
Time of SSU’s conference change history (Maggie Kayt Franks)

Shawnee State University’s athletic programs have entered a new era. At the start of this academic year, most of the Bears athletic teams moved from the Mid-South Conference to the River States Conference. The change coincided with the arrival of Shawnee State’s new athletic director, Gerald Cadogan, who explained the reasoning behind the switch.

“Primary for us repositioning our conference alignment was for proximity,” he said. “Previously our closest school would have been far away. We are now in a conference with the likes of Rio Grande, Midway, Indiana Kokomo and West Virginia Tech, which are a lot closer to Portsmouth and Shawnee State University.”

However, there are several teams that will not compete under the school’s new conference. The men’s and women’s bowling teams have not participated in the same conference as other SSU athletic teams for the past several years. They will continue to compete within the Ohio Bowling Conference. During the 2023-24 season, the men finished ninth and the women placed fifth overall in the conference. Both men’s and women’s swimming teams will stay with the Mid-South Conference due to the lack of swimming programs in the River States Conference. The men’s swimming Bears had their best finish in program history with a fourth-place conference standing, and the women placed sixth in the MSC.

Not only does the university want its athletes to perform well in competitions, but they also want the athletes to be successful students. One of the main goals of the change was to have athletes spend less time traveling and more time in the classroom. During their time in the Mid-South conference, athletes had to spend many nights away from school, resulting in them missing countless days in class. Head women’s basketball head coach DeWayne Burroughs said he genuinely believes that the distance factor will help everyone.

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“One of the major changes will be travel for SSU,” he said. “In the Mid-South, we spent a lot of money and time on travel. The athletes would miss a lot of time from class. Being in the River States, there are schools that are closer in distance, and our athletes will not miss a lot of class time.”

Mid-South Conference travel time graph (Maggie Kayt Franks)
River States Conference travel time graph (Maggie Kayt Franks)

The change has been obvious. As the 2023-24 academic year ends, it was announced that 140 out of the 293 student-athletes at SSU made either All-Conference Academic, All-NAIA Scholar or CSC Academic All-District. Nearly half the Shawnee State University athletes were recognized on some level for their academic performance during the most recent school year.

At the beginning of the season, Burroughs expressed confidence that his team is ready for the new challenge. He believed that his players’ dedication and effort would push them forward in the new conference.

“It’s very hard to judge competition by conference,” he said. “The Mid-South is a tough conference, and I am sure that the River States will be just as tough. We will have to go out and compete every night in the River States Conference like we did in the Mid-South. Our preparation will not change. We work hard every day to be very successful.”

Burroughs’s women concluded the 2023-24 season with an 11-7 record in the River States Conference. This team unfortunately did not make the NAIA national tournament after their loss in the RSC semifinals to the University of Rio Grande. The Lady Bears won 65% of their RSC matchups, which is comparable to their past average finishes in the MSC. During their 13 seasons in the Mid-South, their average winning percentage in conference play was 68%, with their best season in 2017-18 with 100% (14-0) and their worst in 2021-22 with 15% (3-17).

While the basketball team had a similar performance across both conferences, the SSU women’s soccer teams exceeded any of their previous seasons’ winning percentages in the MSC. Both Shawnee soccer teams entered the Mid-South during the 2012 season, competing in a total of 11 seasons. Coach Natasha Ademakinwa’s women completed their first season within RSC with a 60% (6-3-1) winning record. The women finished fifth in the conference, marking the second time that they made it past the quarterfinals in either conference. Their top performance in the MSC was in 2014 with a winning record of 57% (2-5-2), placing fourth overall, while their worst performance was a losing season the next year in 2015, finishing seventh in the conference with a 14% (1-6) losing record.

The athletic department is optimistic about the university’s future within the River States Conference. Cadogan’s vision is to make every team at Shawnee successful, and he believes that this change will aid everyone’s progress in the coming seasons.

“Our goal, and my goal as the athletic director is to make sure that all of our programs have success, and I think within this new River States Conference we can be even more competitive,” he said. “We are excited about it! I know we will be very competitive!”



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Maggie Kayt Franks
Maggie Kayt Franks, Staff Writer
Maggie Kayt Franks is 20 years old and a sophomore at Shawnee State University. She is originally from Huntington, West Virginia. Her major is sports management with a concentration on marketing and communications, and she is pursuing a minor in sports coaching and journalism. Maggie Kayt joined the Chronicle staff as part of the news writing and reporting class required for her communications concentration and her journalism minor. She has also worked as a sportswriter for the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington. Maggie Kayt is a collegiate swimmer for Shawnee State University and is very passionate about it. She also loves teaching kids how to swim and takes pride in it, as swimming is a valuable skill. She is also learning how to bake and cook. When asked what she thinks she can gain from her experience with the Chronicle, Maggie Kayt said, "I am hoping to work on my writing skills when it comes to general news writing that is not centered around sports." She is very excited to be a part of the Chronicle team and looking forward to where this semester can take her as writer. Her attitude reflects a quote by the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano that Maggie Kayt said she lives by: "Know where you have been, where you are now and where you want to be."

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