FRISCO, Texas (Southland) - The Southland Conference Board of Directors approved campus visits to three institutions as the league continues to examine future membership possibilities. The presidential action highlighted the conference's four-day Spring Meeting this week at the San Luis Resort and Conference Center in Galveston, Texas.
The Southland will send visitation teams to Abilene Christian University, the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, and the University of New Orleans this summer in an effort to move closer to potential membership decisions. ACU and UIW are currently NCAA Division II football-playing institutions, while UNO is a Division I independent program. Abilene Christian was also a charter member of the Southland when it formed in 1963.
"The Board of Directors has spent a considerable amount of time since last summer reviewing all possible membership options available to the conference," league commissioner Tom Burnett said. "It's been a deliberate, thoughtful exercise that has allowed the board to consider what's best for the long-term viability of the association, not just a quick fix. The presidents were very clear in expressing their interest in learning more about these institutions, and they look forward to these visits."
Last fall, the conference added Oral Roberts University as a member effective for the 2012-13 academic year, followed by an offer of membership to Houston Baptist University, effective in 2013-14.
In other action at the spring meeting, the board and the advisory council approved a revised bracket for the 2013 Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments. Set for March 13-16 at the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy, Texas, the bracket will still include the top eight regular season finishers, but the first and second seeds will receive two rounds of byes and begin play in the semifinal round. The third and fourth seeds will earn byes directly into the quarterfinals, while the fifth through eighth seeds will play in the first round.
"The men's and women's basketball coaches originally reviewed and favored this bracketing concept as a way to reward the top regular-season finishers," Burnett added. "This may also protect the higher seeds if they can win and advance to the NCAA Tournaments with the possibility of higher national seeding." In 2012-13, Southland basketball teams will not play in divisions for the first time in seven years, and instead will compete in a full double round-robin schedule of 18 games.
Southland administrators also approved the following sites for 2013-14 championships: cross country and soccer at McNeese State, volleyball and tennis at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, softball at Southeastern Louisiana, and baseball at Central Arkansas. Basketball will remain at Katy, Texas, in 2014, and the outdoor track and field meet, determined by rotation, will be conducted at UCA.
The leadership of the advisory council transitions for the next two academic years, as Central Arkansas athletic director Dr. Brad Teague will assume the presidency of this governing body on July 1. Bridget Martin, the assistant athletic director at McNeese State, will serve a two-year term as vice president of the council, and Lamar faculty representative Dr. Hsing-Wei Chu will continue to serve as secretary-treasurer.
Administrators also reaffirmed the Southland's home and away men's basketball teams competing in the 2013 ESPN BracketBusters event. Home teams will include Central Arkansas, Lamar, Oral Roberts and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Away teams are McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin.
The Southland also hosted its annual Honors Dinner and Ceremony during the Spring Meeting. Former McNeese State football student-athlete Kerry Joseph, former UT Arlington athletic director Pete Carlon, and legendary Texas State volleyball coach Karen Chisum were inducted into the Southland's Hall of Honor.
The league's highest academic honors, the F.L. McDonald Postgraduate Scholarships, were presented to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's tennis student-athlete Nathan Robinson and SFA women's track and field student-athlete Carrie Hahn. Also, the Steve McCarty Citizenship Awards were presented to Northwestern State men's basketball student-athlete Gary Stewart and Central Arkansas multi-sport student-athlete Cristin Curl.