Seton, John Paul the Great and Quantico will begin the school year in new athletic conferences after their former conference dissolved at the end of the 2020-21 academic year in a disagreement over unspecified issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seton and John Paul the Great will join Trinity Christian (Fairfax) and Fredericksburg Christian as members of the Virginia Christian Athletic Conference. Seton, Trinity Christian and Fredericksburg Christian had been full-time members of the now-dissolved Delaney Athletic Conference, while John Paul the Great only had field hockey and girls lacrosse teams in the conference.
Quantico is a member of the seven-team Greater Piedmont Athletic Conference. The other six schools are former Delaney members Highland, Wakefield School, Foxcroft, Randolph-Macon Academy, Fredericksburg Academy and Tandem Friends.
All the schools from each conference are members of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, which oversees the state’s postseason events for private schools.
Seton was a charter member of the DAC when it was established in 1984. The school also came up with the idea to name the league after former Kansas City Chiefs running back Joe Delaney.
At the time, Seton needed a new conference after its former league (the Northern Virginia Christian Conference) folded in the spring of 1983.
Then-Seton athletic director Pete Westhoff asked members of his boys basketball team if they had any suggestions for a conference name. The players proposed naming it after Delaney in honor of his sacrificial act. Delaney drowned June 29, 1983, after trying to save three children from drowning in a pond in Monroe, La.
Seton athletic director Dan Vander Woude said the DAC members decided to disband at the end of April, but agreed to remain in place through the rest of the spring sports season.
Differences caused by COVID led to the dissolution, Vander Woude said. “They were irreconcilable differences. Without going into too many details, it was best to separate.”
Gary Leake, Highland athletic director and the DAC’s final president, said the decision to split was for “reasons I’m not allowed to share.”
“It was sad to see it go, but everything happens for a reason,” Leake said. “There were different topics on which it was hard to agree on. We have to do what’s best for everyone.”
Leake said the Greater Piedmont schools will focus on being “character-based programs who are all committed to being top academic programs.” Leake is the conference commissioner.
“It’s a new direction and a new opportunity,” Leake said.
Seton opted to form a new conference with other schools that share its faith-based philosophy. Seton and John Paul are Catholic schools in Manassas and the Dumfries area, respectively. Vander Woude’s brother, Chris, is John Paul’s athletic director.
“The primary focus of the conference is that we want to use athletics as a platform to develop Christian principles,” Vander Woude said. “We want to encourage one another in an effort to strive for excellence in athletics. We want to encourage one another to follow Christ.”
Vander Woude said the VCAC hopes to add new members. John Paul the Great will remain independent in football, wrestling and track because none of the other three conference teams field those programs. John Paul will also remain independent in boys basketball. Trinity Christian’s Fleming Saunders is the conference president.
After cancelling its 2020-21 sports season due to the pandemic, Quantico will resume athletics for this school year, starting this fall with cross country, girls volleyball and boys soccer.
Football is the only sport Quantico will not have this fall. Quantico principal Miles Shea said the school will re-evaluate at a later date whether to have football for 2022.
Quantico athletic director Steve Casner said the school decided to go without football for 2021 since it is joining the GPAC, where none of the other schools have football.
To field a football team, Quantico needed to create an independent schedule, something that was challenging to do after sports shut down for the school year and with the lack of similar sized schools to compete against in Northern Virginia. Quantico also was anticipating lower numbers than usual at the school and was without a full-time athletic director until Casner officially took the position Aug. 2. Quantico’s enrollment for ninth through 12 grades is 127 students.
Shea served as the interim athletic director from Nov. 16, 2020 to July 31, 2021. Shea said long-time Quantico AD Paul Roy retired in May. Roy also served as the head football coach.
Casner comes from Japan, where he served as athletic director at several Department of Defense schools. A former college football player at Cal Poly, Casner came to Quantico after accepting a guidance counselor’s job. Casner said he saw the school needed an athletic director. Because no one else had taken the job, Casner decided to do it.
“Sports gave me a lot in life,” Casner said. “I like to help in the sports realm.”