One of the oldest Division III conferences in the nation, the USA South was born as the Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1963 when six institutions with similar philosophies of academics and athletics joined as founding members. The original members were: Charlotte College (now UNC-Charlotte), College of Charleston (S.C.), Methodist University, North Carolina Wesleyan College, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and Lynchburg College. The basis for the new athletic conference was that participation would be strictly amateur, and thus no athletically awarded financial aid or athletic scholarships would be awarded. That philosophy still exists today.
In February 2003, it was announced that the Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference would change its name to the USA South Athletic Conference. The name change was made official on July 1, 2003 and the first USA South Athletic Conference championships were awarded in the fall of 2003.
The Conference was originally affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and remained with that affiliation until 1973. At that time the NCAA divided into three legislative and competitive divisions, with Division III allowing membership for nonathletic scholarship institutions only. The Dixie joined the NCAA, and in so doing, became one of the first conferences accepted into Division III. Since the inception of Division III, the USA South has been a leader in many areas, and has gained an outstanding regional and national reputation in a number of sports.
The USA South sponsored athletic programs for men only until 1981. In that year, the NCAA expanded its sponsorship to include women’s sports, and the Dixie followed that lead by including women’s sports. The Conference now sponsors championships in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s golf and women’s lacrosse for a total of 14 sports.
The League not only recognizes the participants for outstanding athletic achievements each year, but academic excellence as well. Student athletes who maintain academic averages of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale in both academic semesters are named to the Academic All-Conference team. This group annually averages well over 1,450 students.
Each year, the President’s Cup is awarded to the school that accumulates the most points throughout the academic year in sports that are sponsored by the USA South. In 2004-05, the President’s Cup was changed to have one winner for men’s sports and one winner for women’s. In 2005-06, the Conference began awarding a men’s, a women’s and an overall President’s Cup.
Presently, the Conference features 19 institutions, eight in North Carolina, five in Georgia, three in Virginia, one in Alabama, one in Tennessee and one in Kentucky.