Mississippi College Takes Steps to Rejoin NCAA Division II
CLINTON, Miss. --- Mississippi College leaders agreed Thursday (9/27) to ask the NCAA to return the university to Division II and rejoin the Gulf South Conference after being away for 16 seasons.
The NCAA Division II Membership Committee, as part of its process, would reach a decision on MC's application in July 2013. Mississippi College is presently a member of the Texas-based American Southwest Conference in Division III.
After extensive study by university officials, MC's Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation from President Lee Royce and its executive committee to move forward with an application to pursue Division II membership. The potential move comes amid strong support among key university constituents- from alumni to students, faculty and staff on the Clinton campus.
"We appreciate the strong support from the Gulf South Conference as we move forward with the NCAA Division II application process," said MC President Dr. Lee Royce. "The proposal has received enthusiastic support from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. We look forward to renewing rivalries with schools such as Delta State University and GSC newcomers Union University in Tennessee and Shorter University in Georgia."
Athletic Director Mike Jones commented, "We are very excited about the opportunity to continue the process of making application for Division II membership."
Returning to the Gulf South Conference would reunite the Choctaws' decades long in-state rivalry with Delta State University, as well as compete with nearby neighbors like the University of West Alabama in Livingston, Christian Brothers in Memphis, and the University of West Florida in Pensacola. GSC newcomers including two Baptist-affiliated schools, Union Universityin Jackson, Tennessee and Shorter University in Rome, Georgia would also be good opponents for MC, the nation's second oldest Baptist college. MC presently enrolls 5,145 students. Another Christian institution, 4,400-student Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee received NCAA permission to join the GSC in July.
A Gulf South Conference member from 1972 until departing in 1996, Mississippi College would potentially join a vibrant 12-school conference that includes a mix of public and private universities, Royce said. Over the years, GSC schools have won 46 NCAA Division II championships in 13 sports.
If Mississippi College were to receive an invitation to begin the Division II membership process and rejoin the Gulf South Conference it would result in much more media exposure for the university in the region. GSC football games of the week are broadcast in the fall on cable TV's CSS and reach millions of homes in the South.
A possible jump to NCAA Division II also makes sense from a logistical and cost standpoint. MC Athletic Director Mike Jones and others say rejoining the Gulf South Conference would greatly reduce travel time for the university's student-athletes, coaches and support staff.
The Gulf South Conference dates back to 1970 with original members including Delta State, North Alabama, Jacksonville State, West Alabama, Tennessee-Martin and Troy State. GSC reports note that 113 of its alumni have been players in the NFL or Canadian Football League, including 25 in the Super Bowl and 14 making all-pro.
Among Mississippi College's prominent NFL player was Fred McAfee, the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame member from Philadelphia, MS who presently serves as director of player personnel for the Saints. McAfee is among the alumni hailing the Christian university's potential return to Division II.
Present GSC institutions include the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Christian Brothers University, Delta State University, the University of North Alabama, Valdosta State University, the University of West Alabama, the University of West Florida, and the University of West Georgia. The NCAA gave approval in July 2011 for Shorter University and Union University to become provisional members of the conference this year and full members in 2013-2014.
Florida Tech was admitted to the GSC as a football associate member beginning in 2013.
Mississippi College is home to teams in 15 NCAA sports with the football team winning the ASC championship in 2009.
Based in Birmingham, the Gulf South Conference is led by President Nate Salant. GSC leaders recently visited Mississippi College and met with key university constituents – including alumni, students, faculty and staff who all enthusiastically backed MC's return to NCAA's Division II ranks.