LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia -

On the eve of our nation’s fourth of July celebration, it was announced that McMurry University’s swimming program has lost its independence...and War Hawks faithful couldn’t be happier about it. That’s because the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) has formally announced the addition of McMurry as an affiliate member in the sports of men's and women's swimming and diving effective the 2014-15 academic year.

“I have been working on this for 15 years,” said McM head coach Bev Ball of the conference affiliation. “I am excited; this is a great opportunity for our program. I have many friends among the SCAC coaches and have a tremendous amount of respect for them and the entire conference. Becoming a member of the SCAC is a great benefit for our athletes, fans and parents, alike, as we will have more opportunities for competition within our own geographic proximity.”

The SCAC Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote, extended the invitation to McMurry at the group’s spring meeting two weeks ago.

"We are pleased to have the McMurry University men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs join the conference,” said SCAC commissioner Dwayne Hanberry. “Both squads will be great additions to the league and head coach Bev Ball is among the more well-respected swimming coaches in the nation.”

Ball, who has a combined 63 years of coaching experience in the pool at the high school and college levels. has been accorded numerous honors during her illustrious career, including induction into the Big country Hall of Fame (2003), the celebration of "Bev Ball Day" in Abilene (2006) and a "Woman of Outstanding Achievement" award (2012) from the Abilene branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).  Also in 2012, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.

The association with the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference will be McMurry’s first full NCAA Division III conference affiliation for its men's and women's swimming programs. Founded in 2000, McMurry swimming competed in the New South Intercollegiate Conference (which had both NCAA II and NCAA III swimming membership) from 2000-2005, winning the league championship for both men and women in 2002 and 2003. The War Hawks have, since that time, participated in the Liberal Arts Championships - recognized as a premiere small college meet - in lieu of a conference post-season meet. McMurry has had a pair of NCAA Division III national qualifiers (Justin Schultz in 2001 and Hillary Poole in 2003).

The SCAC, which has only sponsored men's and women's swimming and diving since 1999, has produced six national individual champions (including five this decade) and 150+ All-Americans between the sports.

The SCAC currently has five core members who sponsor men's and women's swimming and diving: Austin College, Centenary College of Louisiana, Colorado College, Southwestern University and Trinity University.

“We are truly excited and appreciative to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference for providing a ‘home’ for our swimming teams,” said McM director of athletics Sam Ferguson. “To be associated with the SCAC will give our swimmers not only a strong competitive schedule in the pool, but also a premiere academic affiliation, which matches the mission of our university.”

The 2015 SCAC Swimming & Diving Championships will be held February 11-14 at the Rockwall ISD Natatorium in Rockwall, Texas.

Information for this story provided by McMurry Athletics.