Montevallo headed to Gulf South Conference

From left, University of Montevallo President Dr. John Stewart II, Gulf South Conference Commissioner Matt Wilson and Montevallo Athletic Director Mark Richard smile during a June 16 press conference announcing Montevallo’s return to the Gulf South Conference. (For the Reporter / Dawn Harrison)

From left, University of Montevallo President Dr. John Stewart II, Gulf South Conference Commissioner Matt Wilson and Montevallo Athletic Director Mark Richard smile during a June 16 press conference announcing Montevallo’s return to the Gulf South Conference. (For the Reporter / Dawn Harrison)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

MONTEVALLO – The Gulf South Conference is growing. On June 16, the GSC announced the approval of both the University of Auburn at Montgomery and the University of Montevallo as the 13th and 14th members of the conference. Montevallo, which spent 14 years in the Gulf South from the 1995-96 school year to 2009, will rejoin the Gulf South following the 2016-17 school year.

“This is an exciting and great day for the Gulf South Conference and for the University of Montevallo,” Gulf South Conference Commissioner Matt Wilson said in a press conference at Montevallo on June 16. “When I took the job with the Gulf South Conference in May of 2014, the league was coming off some tumultuous times. In the 5-6 years prior we had significant changes in membership, and we were not a unified conference. Over the course of that time people left, and since then we have rebuilt the Gulf South Conference. We are again the strongest Division II conference in the United States, and after today we will be 14 members strong.”

Montevallo won six conference titles and five regular season titles over that 14-year span from 1995-2009, and have been one of the premier athletic programs in the Peach Belt since 2009. The Falcons’ culminating achievement to date in the Peach Belt was in 2011-12 when the men’s basketball team made its first appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championship game.

“It’s a great day to be a Falcon,” University of Montevallo President John Stewart III said. “We are happy to be returning home to the Gulf South.”

The Peach Belt Conference currently is made up of 15 teams from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The only two schools currently from Alabama in the conference are the University of Auburn at Montgomery and Montevallo, both of which are transferring to the GSC. In the Gulf South, Montevallo will be one of the most centrally located members, making travel time less of a problem.

“If you threw a dart in the Gulf South and tried to hit the middle school, it would be Montevallo,” University of Montevallo athletic director Mark Richard said. Richard also was quoted in a press release sent out by the Gulf South Conference as saying, “the move allows us to restore many of the special rivalries we enjoyed as a member of the Gulf South Conference. It is a great move for our student-athletes and our fans.”

The Gulf South Conference is a charter member of the NCAA Division II dating back to its creation in the summer of 1970, and GSC teams have claimed 50 NCAA Division II national championships in 13 sports since that time.