Samford University has accepted an invitation to join the Ohio Valley Conference, placing the 17 men's and women's sports in the same athletic league for the first time in the University's 160-year history.
The announcement made Tuesday by Samford President Thomas E. Corts and Director of Athletics Bob Roller, means that Samford will join the nation's eighth-oldest NCAA Division I Conference no later than June 1, 2003.
"The OVC is a respected, mainline conference that plays highly competitive sports," Dr. Corts said. "Our coaches and teams feel up to the challenge of competing in all sports. Even though we will be the only private, independent institution in the conference, we believe the OVC will be a good place for an institution with our academic and athletic values.
"We are impressed that the OVC maintains a lively spirit of competition, while enjoying the full involvement of presidents of the universities," Corts added. "I have been impressed with the steady, even-handed operation of the conference since we first discussed this possibility more than 10 years ago. Commissioner Dan Beebe runs a quality operation in a manner that affords the student athlete great competition and excellent public exposure."
Samford has competed in the Trans America Athletic Conference since 1978 in all sports except football. The Bulldog football team has played as an independent at the NCAA 1-AA scholarship level since 1988.
"This move unifies our entire department and allows Samford the opportunity to compete for 17 championships in the coming years," Roller said. "We have competed against most OVC schools in the past decade and have greatly increased our recruiting base of student-athletes into this geographic region in recent years."
Current members of the OVC include: Austin Peay State University, Eastern Illinois University, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Southeast Missouri State University, University of Tennessee at Martin, Tennessee State University, and Tennessee Tech University. Jacksonville State University announced last month that it would be joining the OVC no later than June 1, 2003.