BATESVILLE, Ark. (LyonScots.com) – Within two months of a vote to re-instate its football program after a 62-year hiatus, the Lyon College gridiron team already has a place to call 'home'. The Central States Football League (CSFL) accepted the Scots' into the league as its seventh member on Tuesday, according to Lyon President Dr. Donald Weatherman.
Lyon will be a provisional member in 2014 and formally join the league as a full-fledged member when the Scots begin intercollegiate play in the fall of 2015. Lyon College will continue to be a member of the American Midwest Conference in its other nine sports.
Lyon will join CSFL first-year members Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, Okla.) and Wayland Baptist University (Plainview, Tex.) in the NAIA league, along with veterans Bacone College (Muskogee, Okla.), Langston University (Langston, Okla.), Southwest Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie, Tex.) and Texas College (Tyler, Tex.) in the football-only league.
The news couldn't have come at a better time. Earlier in the day Scots head football coach Kirk Kelley announced the first signee of the football squad, Batesville High School tight end Garett Denton.
Kelley said he is hoping to have 60-65 players on the squad by next fall and approximately 100 by the time the program begins play in the league. He said being a part of the CSFL will be beneficial to the Scots program in a number of ways.
"Usually one of the first questions recruits ask is 'what conference are you in.' Now we have an answer for it," Kelley said Tuesday. "It's a good league. Langston [a member since the league's inception in 2000] has a good program and there are a couple of programs that are similar to us. So it's a good mix of schools and a good fit for us.
"It'll also help us in the recruiting process. Football is big in Texas and Oklahoma, and if we're playing in those areas we'll get that much more exposure to high school kids.
"Kids also want something to play for. Being a part of a conference not only gives them a chance to play for a conference championship right away, but also all-conference and national honors, as well."
Dr. Weatherman noted that being a part of the CSFL will also ease possible scheduling difficulties early on in the program's journey.
"It is good to know who we will be playing and have a schedule early on in the process," Dr. Weatherman stated. "Being a part of a strong conference, like the CSFL, will also provide a great benefit as far as recruiting players.
"The Central States Football League is a really good fit for us. They are all private schools that place a lot of emphasis on the term scholar/athlete. I am pleased to be affiliated with these colleges."
There will be three institutions in the CSFL that have enrollments under 1,000 – Bacone (900), Texas College (755) and Lyon (600). However, Lyon hopes its enrollment will grow by at least 100 over the next two years with the addition of the football squad. Wayland Baptist currently has an enrollment of 1,124 and Oklahoma Baptist reports 1,700 students, while SAGU (2,064) and Langston (2,379) both top the 2,000 mark, according to CSFL website data.
Lyon College Director of Athletics Kevin Jenkins said these are exciting times for the football program.
"Coach Kelley has done an excellent job of coming in and helping generate a lot of excitement in our football program," Jenkins stated. "Recruiting 100 student-athletes is a tall task, but if anyone can do it he can.
"Becoming a part of the CSFL was a huge step for us and we're looking forward to competing with these teams beginning in 2015."
Dr. Weatherman said Lyon College has taken some a lot of steps since the Board of Trustees voted to re-instate football in June. But he feels each step has been the right one.
"We're a progressing at lightning speed," he stated. "When we make up our minds to do something, we need to get on with the task at hand. The support we have had from the Board of Trustees, the Athletic Booster Club, alumnae and the local community have made this remarkably easy."
Kelley said he expects to sign his second recruit later this week as he and his staff visit area, state and regional high school football camps throughout the fall and spring.