By Randy Speer, The Circuit
The Heart of America Athletic Conference officially added two new institutions to its already expanded conference Thursday afternoon.
Clarke University and Mount Mercy University are the two schools, as reported by The Circuit on Wednesday.
The two Iowa schools begin administrative work immediately and will be added to the athletic lineups in the 2016-17 academic year.
“We are proud to officially welcome Mount Mercy and Clarke into the Heart of America Athletic Conference,” said Heart commissioner Lori Thomas. “With a strong desire to balance the athletics and academic interests of its student-athletes these two outstanding member institutions share the same values and further strengthens our conference.”
Mount Mercy and Clarke will join William Penn and Grand View in leaving the Midwest Collegiate Conference. William Penn and Grand View are set to participate on the field at the start of the 2015-16 academic year.
The Midwest conference will be left with only one school, Viterbo University (Wisc.), as AIB School of Business will close its doors in June.
“The Heart of America Athletic Conference is one of the premier conferences in the NAIA,” said Mount Mercy’s Athletics Director Scot Reisinger. “Its history of national championships and strong administrative leadership make it the ideal home for the Mustangs.”
Both schools expressed excitement on Thursday about being added.
“We look forward to our affiliation with quality institutions in an expanding geographic presence,” said Clarke Athletic Director Curt Long. “The Heart of America Athletic Conference has a tradition of strong competition and will allow us scheduling opportunities for all of our sports.”
Prior to the expansion, Graceland was the lone Iowa school in the Heart. With the recent expansion, the state now boasts five Heart schools.
Both institutions will field teams that will compete in conference play in the following sports: men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, and men’s and women’s golf.
Clarke also fields teams in men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s volleyball and spirit squad. Clarke has also announced it will start a football program for the 2018 season.
How the conference will split into divisions has yet to be announced.