Conference Carolinas History & Roots

(Link to historical Archives)

Conference Carolinas has a rich tradition in roots that date back to its early initial inception on December 6th, 1930. The conference was formed then as an athletic association "for the greater advantage of the small colleges in North Carolina." The official name given back then was the North State Intercollegiate Conference, but it was known informally as the Old North State Conference. 

The birthplace was the Washington Duke Hotel in Durham, N.C. and the seven charter and founding members were Appalachian State, Atlantic Christian (now Barton College), Catawba, Guilford, Elon, High Point and Lenoir-Rhyne. 

The conference followed a policy of expansion for a period of time. Western Carolina became a member in 1933, East Carolina in 1947, Pfeiffer in 1960, Newberry in 1961 and Presbyterian in 1964, followed closely by Mars Hill.

With the acceptance of the first member from South Carolina in Newberry College, a name change became necessary. Thus on May 20, 1961 the official name of the conference was changed to the Carolinas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (CIAC), but it was commonly known less formerly as the Carolinas Conference.    

East Carolina resigned in 1962 to join the Southern Conference and Appalachian and Western Carolina followed. Football sponsorship in the Carolinas Conference was dropped in 1973 when Lenoir-Rhyne, Newberry, Presbyterian and Mars Hill joined the South Atlantic Conference.

Pembroke State University became a first-time member in 1976 followed by Wingate College in 1979 and Lenoir-Rhyne rejoined in 1984.

While Guilford College withdrew in 1988, St. Andrews and Mount Olive were added that same year.

The 1989-90 academic year started a new era as Catawba, Elon, Lenoir-Rhyne and Wingate all withdrew to compete in the first year that the South Atlantic Conference would provide championships in all sports, not just football.

The Carolinas Conference then added Belmont Abbey in 1989, Coker College in 1991 and Lees-McRae in 1993.

The 1993-94 academic year brought a change to the conference national affiliation. The conference entered dual membership into both the NAIA DI and NCAA DII affiliation. 

The 1995-96 year brought dramatic change to the conference. First, full membership into NCAA Division II was acquired and the NAIA affiliation was dropped. Thus, this was the first official year of full competition and championship play for the conference in NCAA DII status. Secondly, this was also the same year that Erskine, Longwood, & Queens were accepted as full members of the conference. With Longwood becoming the first Virginia member, another name change occurred and the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference (known more universally as the "CVAC") was born.    

Following the 1997 academic year High Point resigned to join the NCAA DI ranks while in 1998 Limestone soon joined and were quickly followed by Anderson in 1999.

In 2003, Longwood University left the conference to explore possibilities in NCAA Division I. Then in 2005 the CVAC added Converse College as an affiliate member before becoming a full member starting in the 2007-08 season.

With the lone Virginia school in Longwood leaving, the league decided to go back to their roots and change their name to Conference Carolinas in 2007. 

On June 1, 2011, King College and North Greenville University became official members of the conference and opened the conference to its first Tennessee member in King.

Southern Wesleyan joined the league officially as a full NCAA DII member on July 1, 2016 after going through the national membership process with Conference Carolinas. The league opened up their sponsorship to Southern Wesleyan where the Warriors played a full conference regular season schedule for three years (2013) prior to full NCAA DII membership.

Emmanuel College joined Conference Carolinas July 13, 2018 after also going through the full NCAA DII membership process. Within that process, the Lions played fives years (2013) in which their games counted towards regular season standings without eligibility for league championships.

Chowan University became a full Conference Carolinas member starting in the 2019-20 athletic year. Chowan was an associate member for the sports of men's & women's lacrosse, women's golf, men's & women's soccer, baseball, men's & women's swim, and men's & women's tennis before joining Conference Carolinas from the CIAA. 

With Chowan's inclusion, the league now has 12 full member institutions to remain one of the elite NCAA DII conferences in the nation.

Many institutions have been members of the league during its rich history overall, including Anderson, Appalachian State,  Barton (formerly Atlantic Christian), Belmont Abbey, Catawba, Chowan, Coker, Converse, East Carolina, Emmanuel, Erskine, Guilford, Elon, High Point, King, Lees-McRae, Lenoir-Rhyne, Limestone, Longwood, Mars Hill, Mount Olive, Newberry, North Greenville, Pembroke State, Pfeiffer, Presbyterian, Queens, Southern Wesleyan, St. Andrews, Western Carolina and Wingate.   

Barton is the only remaining charter member followed in longevity by Mount Olive joining in 1988.

Historic Breakdown:

  • 1930-31 to 1960-61: NSIAC, "North State Intercolligiate Athletic Conference" (Informally known as Old North State Conference)
  • 1961-62 to 1994-95: CIAC, "Carolinas Intercolligate Athletic Conference" (Informally known as Carolinas Conference)
  • 1995-96 to 2006-07 CVAC,"Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference" (Informally known as the CVAC and name changed to include Virginia school) 
  • 2007-08 to Present "Conference Carolinas" (Name changed back to original historic roots with the intention not to change in the future based on any members state affiliation) 

    (Note: 1975-76 to 1988-89, SAC-8, "South Atlantic Conference" was formed as a football only conference to meet some of the members football needs. Then in 1989-90, the South Atlantic Conference all sports conference was formed where football members resigned to help form the SAC.)

Current Membership:

*Charter/Founding Member


Academic Year Joined:

*Barton College (formerly Atlantic Christian)  


Belmont Abbey College


Chowan University (2019-20 Full Member)

(2016-17 Associate)
(2019-20 Full)

Converse College

(2005-07 Associate)

Emmanuel College

(2013-18 Partner)

Erskine College

King University 2011-12

Lees-McRae College


Limestone College


University of Mount Olive


North Greenville University


Southern Wesleyan University

(2013-16 Partner)







Past Membership Affiliation:

*Charter/Founding Member



Appalachian State*      






East Carolina






High Point*  






Mars Hill   

1973-1975, 1987-1989


1961- 1972

Pembroke State (now UNC Pembroke)








St. Andrews


Western Carolina  



1979 -1989