Youngstown State University's bowling program is set to join the Southland Bowling League for competition beginning in the 2018-19 season, the league and YSU jointly announced on Tuesday.
The Penguins become the eighth team to join the Southland Bowling League, whose champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. The Southland Bowling League is perhaps the most competitive in the nation with two of the past three national champions and five teams that ranked in the final National Tenpin Coaches Association Top 25 Poll in 2018.
"We are very excited to joining the Southland Bowling League," YSU head coach Chelsea Gilliam said. "This is a tough conference with some of the best teams in NCAA bowling, and I am happy we get to be a part of that. We will now be able to compete for conference awards as well as the conference automatic qualification to the NCAA Championships. The coaches and Southland staff have already been very welcoming to us."
"Joining the Southland Bowling League is a great opportunity for the student-athletes in our bowling program to annually compete against some of the top teams in the country," said Ron Strollo, YSU Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. "We have a solid foundation for a very successful program, and we're excited to continue progressing toward our high aspirations as members of the SBL."
The Southland Bowling League operates independently from regular Southland Conference operations, but the conference office provides administrative oversight at its headquarters in Frisco, Texas.
Other members of the league include Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Tulane, Valparaiso and Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is the defending National Champion, and Stephen F. Austin claimed the national title in 2016. Sam Houston State and Arkansas State also qualified for the eight-team NCAA Tournament this past season, and three Southland Bowling League members have received bids to the NCAA Championship each season since 2015. The SBL is entering its fifth season of competition in 2018-19.
"We are very excited that Youngstown State will join the Southland Bowling League this year," said Executive Director Thomas Samuel. "It's evident in their results over the last two years they are building a program that strives to compete at the highest level in NCAA bowling, and there is no better league to accomplish that goal in than ours."
Youngstown State takes the place of Monmouth, which accepted an invitation to join the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in June, in the Southland Bowling League. Of the eight teams in the Southland Bowling League, only Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin are also in the Southland Conference.
Youngstown State will begin its third season of intercollegiate competition in 2018-19. The Penguins finished the 2016-17 campaign ranked 25th in the final NTCA Top 25 Poll, and they received votes in every poll in 2017-18. YSU has earned five wins over top-10 teams and 30 victories over top-25 teams in its first two seasons. The Penguins were not members of a conference in their first two seasons.