MT. PLEASANT — Iowa Wesleyan sports fans can party like it’s 1995. The Tigers finally have what appears to be a long-term home in NAIA.
After two years of playing most sports in the Continental Athletic Conference, the Tigers will return to the American Midwest Conference in fall 2023. The university and the AMC each announced the news on Wednesday.
Iowa Wesleyan’s Joey Brown serves in the first half of the Tigers’ win over future American Midwest Conference opponent William Woods University on Nov. 2, 2022. (Andy Krutsinger/The Union)
“Our Council of Presidents, Board of Athletics Administrators and Site Visit Team have been very impressed with all aspects of Iowa Wesleyan University, its senior leadership, athletics staff, student athletes and facilities,” said AMC Commissioner Will Wolper. “They are a perfect complement to the American Midwest Conference.”
The Tigers were last a member of the AMC in 1995. Iowa Wesleyan had a brief stint with the conference from 1993-1995, becoming a member just before the league changed its name from the Show-Me Collegiate Conference to the American Midwest.
The AMC currently has 11 members and the conference is expected to remain at 11 next year as Iowa Wesleyan will take the place of the outgoing Lyon College, which joined in 2012.
Iowa Wesleyan’s Shea Scott works the ball over the net during an insane third-set scramble against Harris-Stowe on September 12, 2022. (Andy Krutsinger/The Union)
The AMC includes five members who were not part of the conference when Iowa Wesleyan joined in the 1990s. Founding members Columbia College, Hannibal-LaGrange University, Harris-Stowe State University and Missouri Baptist University are all still members, as is William Woods University, which joined the Tigers in 1993.
Other members of the league include Central Baptist College, Cottey College, University of Health Sciences & Pharmacy, Williams Baptist College, and Stephens College, an all-women’s college.
“On behalf of the Council of Presidents (COP) and the American Midwest Conference, we welcome Iowa Wesleyan University to the AMC,” said Terry Kimbrow, President of Central Baptist College, Chair of the AMC COP. “President Christine Plunkett and Vice President Derek Zander have shown a real understanding and commitment to the values of NAIA and AMC. Like the current members of the AMC, her primary focus is the overall success and experience of her student-athletes, not just on the field but also in the classroom and in the community.”
Iowa Wesleyan currently sponsors 18 athletic teams. A whopping 16 of them fit exactly into the AMC. The conference does not currently have soccer or women’s wrestling.
The Tigers are no strangers to AMC competition. Iowa Wesleyan has played AMC schools frequently, particularly in the northern half, even while the college was part of NCAA Division III for most of the past decade.
Recently, the Tigers men’s basketball team played Columbia and William Woods, defeating both in November. The women also defeated William Woods earlier in the month.
Zander, who serves as Iowa Wesleyan vice president for advancement and athletics, says the conference is a perfect fit.
“We are honored that the American Midwest Conference (AMC) Council of Presidents voted unanimously to induct Iowa Wesleyan into full membership in the fall of 2023,” said Zander. “Through our discussions with AMC, it became clear that AMC appreciates the importance of creating a positive student-athlete experience while also supporting their students academically. We look forward to building on Iowa Wesleyan’s sporting success while participating in a highly competitive conference.”
The Tigers will compete in the CAC in most sports for the remainder of this school year, and the wrestling teams will continue to fight at the Heart of America conference.
Iowa Wesleyan’s Dylan Hurley hits a layup in the second half of the Tigers’ 66-46 win over Hannibal-LaGrange University on December 8, 2021. (Andy Krutsinger/The Union)
When Iowa Wesleyan joins AMC next year, the university will be the northernmost school in the conference. The conference’s closest rival will be Hannibal-LaGrange, which is 97 miles south just off Avenue of the Saints.
The next time Iowa Wesleyan plays a future AMC rival at a sporting event will be on December 17 when the men’s basketball team hosts the Williams Baptist.