Young Harris College was unanimously approved by the Peach Belt Conference's board of directors Monday to join the NCAA Division-II athletic conference as its 14th member institution on July 1.
"We took an in-depth look at Young Harris through the application process and came away impressed by the dedication of president Cathy Cox and her staff to making Young Harris a premier NCAA Division-II athletics program," said Peach Belt Conference board chair Kendall Blanchard of Georgia Southwestern State University. "The vision they have and the groundwork that has been laid are outstanding. It is with pleasure that we invite Young Harris to the Peach Belt family."
When Young Harris joins in July, the Mountain Lions will be immediately eligible for all regular-season championships without automatic bids, and all other Peach Belt Conference awards, including All-Conference and All-Academic honors for its student-athletes.
Young Harris will not be eligible for participation in any conference championships that award automatic bids to NCAA tournaments until they become a full-fledged member of Division II.
"Young Harris is a perfect fit for our conference," said Peach Belt commissioner David R. Brunk. "The commitment they have made to provide a quality academic and athletic experience for their student-athletes will enable them to be competitive in our league immediately.
"The foundation they have established in a short time will allow them to continue to grow and be successful for years to come, and we are excited to be able to share in that growth and success. School president Cathy Cox and athletic director Randy Dunn have made a commitment to both Division II and the Peach Belt Conference, and we welcome them with open arms."
Young Harris was a two-year college for nearly a century until it received accreditation in 2008 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award baccalaureate degrees.
"We are extremely honored to be given the opportunity to join the Peach Belt Conference, which is comprised of such an elite group of institutions," Dunn said. "Not only will this provide our student-athletes with the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of Division II, it will also give our institution regional and national exposure."
Founded in 1991, the Peach Belt Conference is the home to 30 NCAA Division II National Championships, including the 2011 women's basketball title won by Clayton State.
The Peach Belt hosts 13 championship sports with 14 members in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama.