Finlandia joins WIAC for baseball
By John Kemmeter
The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) announced Monday, July 16, that Finlandia University will join the WIAC as an affiliate member in baseball effective immediately.
Located in the Upper Peninsula in Hancock, Mich., Finlandia will give the WIAC seven schools for baseball, along with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-Stout and UW-Whitewater.
“We are extremely pleased and fortunate to have an institution with the outstanding academic profile and competitive baseball program of Finlandia University join our conference,” said WIAC commissioner Gary Karner. “The addition of Finlandia is an extremely positive development for both Finlandia and the WIAC.”
“I would like to thank Commissioner Karner, the WIAC Directors of Athletics, and the WIAC Chancellors for their support throughout this process,” said Finlandia director of athletics Curtis Wittenberg. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our baseball student-athletes and coaches to compete against like institutions on a regular basis. We will now have the ability to stabilize our team travel to provide our student-athletes a true Division III experience, including a regular season conference schedule which we have lacked.”
The WIAC is comprised of eight schools from the University of Wisconsin System that compete at the NCAA Division III level, but UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls don’t have baseball programs.
After UW-Superior left the WIAC for the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference following the 2014-15 academic year, the WIAC was down to six teams for baseball, with the NCAA requiring a minimum of seven teams for a conference to get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and a two-year grace period before the loss of the Automatic Qualifier.
In January 2017, Illinois Tech joined the WIAC for baseball only and competed in the conference for the 2018 season, which was the Illinois Tech athletic department’s fourth and final year as a provisional NCAA program.
However, Illinois Tech announced in May 2017 that it joined the Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference for all sports starting with the 2018-19 academic year, when it will become a full NCAA Division III member.
Despite the addition of then-non-NCAA Division III member Illinois Tech last season, the WIAC didn’t receive an Automatic Qualifier for baseball, and Illinois Tech’s departure left the conference with six teams for baseball next spring, before the addition of Finlandia.
The WIAC also has affiliate members in women’s gymnastics (Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Winona State University), and men’s and women’s ice hockey (UW-Superior, along with the addition of Northland College beginning in 2019-20).
The Finlandia baseball team finished 10-18 overall last season and competed in the CUNYAC (City University of New York Athletic Conference)
“I’m excited that our program is joining the WIAC,” said Finlandia baseball head coach Evan Brandt. “There’s something special about the history and tradition of the WIAC.
“We’re going to take on some of the best teams in the country and that will be a challenge for us,” he said. “At the same time, our players are excited to meet that challenge head on.”