Iowa Conference officially welcomes new member, announces bids to host 3 D-III national events

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Conference was full of news Friday.

The league held a media gathering at the U.S. Cellular Center to announce it will play its volleyball championships the next three years there. The 2016 event is scheduled for November 4-5.

IIAC Commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen also announced official bids will be made to host the NCAA Division III volleyball tournament at the the Cellular Center, the D-III baseball tournament at Veterans Memorial Stadium and the Division III softball tournament at the as-yet-to-be-constructed Prospect Meadows in Marion. The cycle for these events is 2018 (volleyball) through 2022 (baseball, softball).

“The process is we have to submit our intents to bid here in the last few days,” Yrigoyen said. “The next step is to finalize those bids. That needs to be done by the middle of August. The finalists for the various sports will be announced in mid-fall, and a decision rendered by the NCAA ... will be final in December.”

The U.S. Cellular Center has been a good fit as home for the Division III wrestling championships. An unsuccessful bid was made last cycle to host the national baseball tournament here.

“That is because Appleton, Wis., has become sort of the Omaha of the Division III baseball championships,” Yrigoyen said. “We understand that Appleton is maybe not going to bid this time, so we believe perhaps our chances are improved in that way. We’ve had great success with our (conference) championship at Perfect Game Field, as a neutral-site situation. And we are optimistic that we can make something happen over there.”

Yrigoyen acknowledged the assistance — including financial — of GO Cedar Rapids in getting the IIAC volleyball tournament to the Cellular Center and for its impending national tournament bids.

“We are thrilled to be in the bid process to get more and more Division III championships to our community,” said GO Cedar Rapids President/CEO Aaron McCreight.

The league also welcomed Nebraska Wesleyan University on its first official day as an IIAC member. NWU previously was a D-III independent and becomes the Iowa Conference’s ninth member, its first outside the borders of the state of Iowa.

“Today is a great, great day to be a Prairie Wolf,” Nebraska Wesleyan Athletics Director Ira Zeff said. “Nebraska Wesleyan is very excited, we are very honored and proud to be a member of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It is fantastic to finally have a D-III home. We have been working on that for a long, long time.”

“Ira and I talked several times about Iowa Conference membership prior to the happy announcement last July,” Yrigoyen said. “Our presidents, our athletic directors, our administrators are incredibly excited about adding another school. It does a lot for the conference, it helps our scheduling. These are games our coaches no longer have to go out and get. Nebraska Wesleyan is an outstanding institution, a lot like our fellow Iowa Conference schools. There certainly are going to be some new travel logistics that our coaches and student-athletes are going to go through, but we couldn’t be prouder and more thankful to have your membership.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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