WHEELING, W.Va., June 20, 2017 -- For the first time in its history, Wheeling Jesuit University will field a football team, beginning with an exhibition schedule in 2018-19, while building the capacity to play a full season during the 2019-2020 season.
“We are so excited to bring a college football team to the city of Wheeling,” said Dr. Debra Townsley, WJU president. “Adding a football team sends a strong message affirming our commitment to both our athletic conference -- the Mountain East -- and to the Ohio Valley. I look forward to welcoming the local community on to our beautiful campus and to Bishop Schmitt Field.”
Wheeling Jesuit currently supports 20 NCAA Division II sports, including: women's volleyball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's golf, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track & field, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's basketball, men's wrestling, men's and women's lacrosse, softball and baseball. The Cardinals also have a men's rugby team.
“Adding a football team presents an amazing opportunity to open our University up to the surrounding region,” said Athletic Director Kevin Forde. “Athletics can truly be a 'front porch' for the University, engaging the community in a unique way.”
Wheeling Jesuit University competes in NCAA Division II as part of the Mountain East Conference (MEC) as one of the five-year-old conference's founding members. Prior to the MEC, the Cardinals played in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) from 1957 to 2013.
“We offer our congratulations to Wheeling Jesuit and thank President Dr. Debra Townsley and the WJU Board of Trustees for their leadership and vision,” said Mountain East Conference Commissioner Reid Amos. “From its inception, the MEC has valued Wheeling Jesuit as a quality member of the conference and we are confident that this move will prove to be a win-win for Wheeling Jesuit and the entire MEC.
“The addition of football at WJU further stabilizes the MEC's role as a premiere all-sports conference in NCAA Division II,” Amos added. “The MEC's identity from the start has been an alignment of schools of similar sizes, budgets and sports offerings, and it is gratifying that our league will have all 12 members playing football.”
In the past two years, WJU has won eight conference championships and six conference tournament championships. Additionally, Wheeling Jesuit student-athletes maintained an overall GPA above 3.0 and 280 earned a place on the MEC Academic All-Conference team.
“Wheeling Jesuit University is proud to offer an education in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition of caring for the mind, body and spirit of each student,” added President Townsley. “We expect to field a football team that excels on the field and in the classroom, and adds to the 25,000 hours of community service that our students complete every year.”