Conference Carolinas celebrates 90th anniversary today

By Richard Walker

A small college conference that spawned five eventual NCAA Division I schools and set integration history in 1964 celebrates its 90th birthday on Sunday.

Conference Carolinas was born after after top athletic representatives from seven North Carolina colleges met at Durham’s Washington Duke Hotel on Dec. 6, 1930.

Appalachian State, Atlantic Christian (now Barton), Catawba, Elon, Guilford, High Point and Lenoir-Rhyne were the original members of the league with only Barton remaining as an active member.

In the years since, Western Carolina (in 1932), East Carolina (1947), Pfeiffer (1961), Newberry (1961), Presbyterian (1965), Mars Hill (1972), Pembroke State (now UNC-Pembroke in 1976), Wingate (1979), Mount Olive (1988), St. Andrews (1988), Belmont Abbey (1989), Coker (1991), Lees-McRae (1993), Erskine (1995), Longwood (1995), Queens (1998), Limestone (1998), Converse (2008), King (2011), North Greenville (2011), Emanuel (2014), Southern Wesleyan (2014) and Chowan (2017) have joined one of the country’s oldest conferences.

In the years since, Appalachian State, High Point, Western Carolina, East Carolina and Longwood eventually left to become Division I schools.

Originally called the North State Conference since all members were from North Carolina, the league name has changed three times; It became the Carolinas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1961 when Newberry of South Carolina was added, the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference in 1995 when Longwood of Virginia was added and to its current Conference Carolinas in 2007.

The league also changed national affiliation once, from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in 1995 to NCAA Division II.

The currently 11 members for the 2020-21 school year are Barton, Belmont Abbey, Chowan, Converse, Emmanuel, Erskine, King, Lees-McRae, Mount Olive, North Greenville and Southern Wesleyan. The league is set to add two more members – Francis Marion and UNC-Pembroke of the Peach Belt Conference – in the 2021-22 school year .

In addition to fielding several sports over the years, the league in 1964 set integration history when Western Carolina basketball star Henry Logan became the first African-American to play sports in a Southern collegiate conference; Logan would go on to become a four-time all-conference selection and one-time player of the year before playing professionally in the old American Basketball Association (ABA).