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JACKSON (July 25) — During a joint press conference at the Jackson Chamber Boardroom in Jackson, Tennessee, the presidents of Bethel University, Freed-Hardeman University and Martin Methodist …
JACKSON (July 25) — During a joint press conference at the Jackson Chamber Boardroom in Jackson, Tennessee, the presidents of Bethel University, Freed-Hardeman University and Martin Methodist College announced their schools’ transfers to the Mid-South Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Teams will first compete in their new conference in the 2020-21 academic year.
“It is not often that you have a chance to simultaneously welcome three new conference members who have the outstanding commitment to academic and athletic excellence that Bethel University, Freed-Hardeman University and Martin Methodist College do,” stated Eric Ward, Mid-South Conference Commissioner. He said, “On behalf of the Mid-South Conference presidents and athletic directors, I thank presidents Walter Butler, David Shannon and Mark Labranche for sharing our vision and for their belief in our mission. Our conference leadership believes that the Mid-South is one of the NAIA’s premier conferences; the addition of these three outstanding institutions lends even more credence to that assertion.”
Ward added, “Our athletic directors are looking forward to working side-by-side with fellow ADs Jeff Bain, Dale Kelley and Mike McCutchen to create extremely meaningful and memorable experiences for all of our student-athletes. Mid-South Conference regular season competition in every sport will be rigorous, and our conference championship events will be amazing. As iron sharpens iron, our teams who earn the right to participate in the NAIA postseason will be well prepared for national championship caliber competition.”
In discussing the move, Walter Butler, president of Bethel University, said, “Rivalries are very important in sports. We are thrilled to be moving all of our NAIA sports to the Mid-South Conference, along with two long-time friends, Martin Methodist College and Freed-Hardeman University. As we all join Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, and others in the conference, these rivalries will be great for our athletes and fans. We have missed these rivalries and are so excited to compete again with our neighboring schools, as well as the entire Mid-South Conference.”
Freed-Hardeman President David Shannon added, “We are thrilled to be partnering with Bethel and Martin Methodist to make this announcement today. By joining Cumberland and other universities in this conference, we will play more games in areas where we have large numbers of prospective students, alumni and friends. While we are grateful for our good experience in the American Midwest Conference, we are excited that these rivalries and post-season tournaments will be more accessible to our fan base. We look forward to developing our student-athletes’ futures through the stability, strength and growth of the Mid-South Conference.”
Martin Methodist President Mark LaBranche reinforced the other presidents’ sentiments, as he said, “Martin Methodist College is excited to renew some traditional rivalries that we know will lead to additional fan support. The coordinated move of our three colleges will also benefit Martin Methodist College students by requiring less time on the road. The opportunity for junior varsity competition is another great advantage to our joining the Mid-South Conference.”
Bethel and Martin Methodist will join the MSC after six years with the Southern States Conference, and FHU will be moving on after six years in the American Midwest Conference. This move puts four former TranSouth Conference rivals (these three and Cumberland University who moved to MSC in 2012) back in the same conference. The MSC has discussed plans to create northern and southern divisions; FHU, Bethel, Cumberland and Martin Methodist would be in the Southern Division.
Comprised of nine full members, the MSC also has multiple affiliate members for football, bowling, archery, lacrosse and other sports. The full-member institutions are in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio, and the majority of conference tournaments take place in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the conference headquarters. More information about the MSC is available at mid-southconference.org, and additional details about Bethel, FHU and Martin Methodist may be found at bethelu.edu. fhu.edu and martinmethodist.edu.