[HT: Arkansas Democrat Gazette]
You didn't think conference realignment was over for good in college football this summer. NCAA Division II schools are in the act, too.
The six schools from Arkansas that participate in the Gulf South Conference along with three Oklahoma schools will apply to the NCAA to form a new Division II conference.
Arkansas Tech, Southern Arkansas, Arkansas-Monticello, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist and Harding have informed the Gulf South Conference its intention of going on their own after this upcoming academic year. They will join East Central University, Southeastern Oklahoma State and Southwestern Oklahoma State in the formation of a new Division II conference.
The GSC's official statement released by the conference is:
"The Gulf South Conference has been officially notified that its six Arkansas members plan to leave the league. The GSC will continue to communicate with those Arkansas schools regarding the official departure process. The group’s decision creates a few challenges in football scheduling, but the Conference is moving forward with solutions that solve those issues and will actually strengthen us. The GSC is excited about the future thanks to the academic excellence and athletic success of its remaining core member institutions, likelihood of expansion and potential football scheduling alliances with like-minded leagues."
One of the reasons the "Arkansas 6" is leaving the Gulf South is lack of year to year success in football.
“Let’s face it, this is also about competitive equity,” GSC Commissioner Nate Salant told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “This is really not about cost. This is really not about lost class time. It’s about other things. And that’s OK.”
One of those "other things" is athletic budgets most specifically travel costs. With the exception of Arkansas Tech, the athletic budgets for the Arkansas schools are not up to par with the West Georgia's, the Valdosta State's and so on. Travel costs alone range around $20,000.
The presidents, chancellors and athletic directors of the nine schools forming this new conference released this statement:
“The intent of the conference is to group together similar institutions in terms of budgets and goals, Furthermore, the conference is intended to be made up of universities that field an intercollegiate football program. Our most important goals in this new endeavor are to limit time away from class and limit our travel costs.”
No name for this new conference yet but those of us at the OSG HQ would like to suggest calling it the new "Southwest Conference".
UPDATE: Because of the dissolving of the Gulf South, Terry Bowden and the University of North Alabama is exploring a move to Division I.
Al.com reports that the board of trustees agreed back on Monday at its annual retreat to have President William Cale and other school officials put a plan together detailing any kind of a move. Trustees want the plan finished by a September 10th board meeting.
Steve Pierce, the UNA board's president pro tem, says it could be "a defining moment for our university."
"I feel that for the future of the university as a whole, we need to look at the possibility of moving to another level," he said.
UNA athletics director Mark Linder said it would cost between $900,000 and $1.3 million for the three-time Division II football national champions to just apply for the move. He has no current clue as to how make up for the budget shortfall, but the guess is that a rise in student fees would be the first step in any kind of process.
The HQ thinks that a move to I-AA and the Ohio Valley would be a safer, interim play for the sake of travel and budgets. Jumping all the way to the Sun Belt might be suicidal, but we are talking about Terry Bowden- one of the bigger dreamers out there...