by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
Prairie College Pilots were approved as an Associate Member of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) at the ACAC Spring General Meeting, May 7-9, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta (AB).
Prairie College, a private Christian post-secondary school located in the town of Three Hills, AB, is no stranger to ACAC competition as they fielded ACAC men's and women's basketball teams from 1994 – 2005.
Starting in 2020-2021, the Pilots will partake in ACAC cross-country running, futsal and indoor track.
Recruiting the top student/athlete is underway.
"There are a lot of good talented kids out there and there is a good pool of (graduating high school) students that we can draw from," said David Petroziello, Director of Sport and Recreation at Prairie College. "We will have to work a bit differently though, from the larger schools like SAIT, NAIT or Lethbridge. We will have to be more specific in our student/athlete recruitment."
During the last few years the Pilots have competed in the Prairie Athletic Conference (PAC) in the sports of basketball, futsal, soccer and volleyball.
Other schools in the PAC include Briercrest College Clippers, Caronport, Saskatchewan (SK); Burman Bobcats, Lacombe, AB; Great Plains SunDogs, Swift Current, SK and Millar College of the Bible Edge, Pambrun, SK.
"Previously in PAC, the teams were not really recruited teams. Our history, were teams made up of students from the campus, who say had some soccer experience in the past that could also transfer over to futsal."
"With indoor track and cross country, those are all individual sports and we actually have some really good runners who happen to be students already and we are also recruiting new students."
According to Petroziello, whose association with the ACAC included stints with the Keyano College Huskies, Olds College Broncos and St. Mary's University College Lightning, the Pilots 2019-2020 season will include a "full exhibition for basketball and futsal teams" while Pilot student/athletes will also compete in cross country and indoor track with no points awarded.
The Pilots futsal program has had exhibition games with the ACAC for the last few years.
"Prairie College has hosted for a quite a while now invitational tournaments with ACAC schools coming from all over the place. So there is some experience to speak of, in playing futsal against ACAC teams
"We have had some success against current ACAC teams and we have not been outweighed in any games. But now we start at the process of building an ACAC program that can compete at the ACAC level."
The Pilots have dropped out of PAC soccer and asked if the school will still compete in PAC volleyball. Petroziello, who is also the Pilots men's basketball coach, answered: "We are keeping that option open."
Of the possibility of returning to ACAC basketball, said "We are certainly considering in getting involvement in other ACAC sports in the future. We would have to see if we would have the right home and right fit in those sports to compete at the ACAC level. We will take it on a case-to-case basis."
Prairie becomes the 18th ACAC member school.
ACAC sports include: badminton, basketball, cross country running, curling, futsal, golf, hockey, indoor track, soccer and volleyball.
The ACAC is part of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), the national governing organization for collegiate sport featuring more than 90 member institutions across Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
According to Wikipedia, Prairie College was "Founded as Prairie Bible Institute, classes began on October 9, 1922, on the property of the McElheran family farm. The school grew to attain an enrollment of over 900 students by 1948 and become Canada's largest bible college, a position it would hold until 1984."
In a media release Petroziello concluded the Pilots' path as: "We have the right culture at Prairie to foster a high-performance mindset while remaining a caring community dedicated to helping our students achieve their personal and professional goals. We believe this will make us an appealing educational option for young Christian leaders looking to discover their calling while continuing to compete athletically at a high level."