Barton College President Norval Kneten considers his new role as president of Conference Carolinas right up his alley.

“When you think about the ideal college athletic experience, you think about Division II,” Kneten said in a telephone interview while traveling through Texas on Friday afternoon. “You think about a balance in athletics and academics.

“That’s what we are all about (at Barton College).”

Kneten has been selected as the president of the NCAA Div. II conference for 2008-09 — as he approaches his sixth year as Barton’s president.

Barton and 11 other colleges in North and South Carolina form the league — which was the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference until being renamed, effective in 2007-08.

The CVAC exited with the Barton men’s basketball team seizing the Div. II national championship, while Conference Carolinas was christened with the Mount Olive College baseball team capturing the national title.

“I am excited about the conference,” Kneten commented, “and I am excited about its potential and what it’s providing.”

Kneten explains he’s comfortable with the responsibilities because they blend with the Barton mission and its partnership with the Wilson community.

“The Div. II experience emphasizes a family-friendly environment for athletic competition,” Kneten remarked.

He reasoned that Div. II best provides the athlete a balanced opportunity for athletics and academics, family involvement and the freedom to step away if choosing to do so.

Kneten proudly notes that Barton is already a “poster child” for the new campaign promoting the Div. II experience. NCAA Div. II, Kneten said, has committed approximately $1 million to its “I Chose Division II” marketing endeavor.

He pointed out the partnership between Barton and the Wilson community was featured in the first edition of “Champions,” a new NCAA publication.

Barton was also prominent in the second edition with its incredible comeback in the last 45 seconds on the 2007 men’s championship basketball game ranked No. 2 among all-time NCAA feats.

“This (guiding Conference Carolinas) is right up our alley,” he contended.

Serving as a conference president will be a first-time experience. Does Kneten have time for the additional duties?

“Do I have time not to do it?” he responded with a laugh. “It’s what Barton College is about. Twenty-two percent of our students are varsity athletes. Their average GPA (grade-point average) is actually higher than that of the overall student.”

Kneten noted he has served in numerous capacities in the past, adding: “In some senses, I have been more involved in the athletic area.”

Conference Carolinas, under Kneten’s guidance, will continue its emphasis upon sportsmanship, promoting a game (family-friendly) environment and being attentive to athletes’ travel time.

The intent is that the impact of the lessons in developing character and sportsmanship will last a lifetime.

“We have a strong conference,” Kneten assured. “We have a good group of schools of comparable culture that are compatible. We have the right number for the way we do our scheduling.”

However, the possibility of expansion is an issue, along with scheduling and the addition of recognized conference sports. The time spent traveling for league competition draws substantial attention.

Kneten confirmed the conference continues to be contacted by other institutions, but said expansion would probably necessitate the creation of divisions within Conference Carolinas.

The league is also moving forward, said Kneten, with its plans to establish a spring sports championship festival, beginning next spring.

Kneten welcomes the opportunity to guide the 12-school league.

“It’s certainly an honor,” he commented, “and I am pleased that Barton College can be represented and involved in this manner.”

(Courtesy of Tom Ham, Wilson Daily Times)

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