LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Mid-South Conference and the Sun Conference are merging to form the largest football league in college sports.
Conference officials announced this week that beginning with the 2017 season, the two will combine to form the new-look Mid-South Conference. The expanded league will include 20 teams that are slated to compete in three divisions, allowing three teams to earn automatic bids to the NAIA Football Championship Series.
St. Andrews University, which announced its plans this week to field a football team beginning in 2017, is expected to compete in the Mid-South.
“I could not be more excited about the expansion to create the largest football conference in the country,” said Dr. Michael Carter, president of Campbellsville University and chair of the Mid-South Conference board of directors.
“This opportunity to promote student athletes who are learning how to be champions of character and the importance of values-based education is important to each school in the Mid-South Conference.”
The new conference will include the Mid-South Conference’s 13 members: Bethel (Tenn.), Bluefield (Va.), Campbellsville (Ky.), Cincinnati Christian (Ohio), Cumberland (Tenn.), Cumberlands (Ky.), Faulkner (Ala.), Georgetown (Ky.), Kentucky Christian, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), Pikeville (Ky.), Reinhardt (Ga.) and Union (Ky.).
These schools will be joined by the six programs from the Sun Conference: Ave Maria (Fla.), Edward Waters (Fla.), Point (Ga.), Southeastern (Fla.), Warner (Fla.) and Webber International (Fla.).
“This merger strengthens our commitment to our football institutions and their student-athletes,” said Mid-South Conference Commissioner Eric Ward.
Ward pointed out that the expanded football conference will make it easier for schools to schedule football games, as well as bring together institutions with similar values.
“While the driving force behind this venture is to alleviate the difficulty of scheduling, there are a number of other benefits that will be realized by expanding this football conference,” he said. “This merger will also increase our football footprint with like-minded schools who share our mission to provide a competitive experience to all student-athletes.”
The Sun Conference Commissioner, Mark Pope, echoed Ward’s sentiments in creating the new football conference.
“Throughout our discussions, Eric and I realized that our respective member institutions were remarkably similar in values, character and strategic vision with regard to football,” Pope said. “We were impressed with the Mid-South’s focus on football as its core product.
“I see this new merger as the beginning of a remarkable new chapter in college football. Given the tremendous interest in football in the Southeast, I expect that several other institutions will consider adding this sport, now that they know they will have a conference which guarantees a full schedule of games.”
Founded in 1987, the Mid-South Conference split into East and West football divisions in 2005. The expanded football conference’s divisions will be called the Appalachian, Bluegrass and Sun — St. Andrews will compete in the Appalachian Division. The three division champions will earn automatic bids into the NAIA Football Championship Series.
When the new football alignment takes place in 2017, teams will play each school within a division once and play four non-division games against other Mid-South Conference teams.