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Union follows CU in TranSouth exodus

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From Post staff reports
Longtime Cumberland rival Union University of Jackson is making plans to leave the TranSouth Conference and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics altogether. Officials at Union have submitted applications for NCAA membership in hopes of becoming the newest additions to the Division II Gulf South Conference.

The announcement comes on the heels of Lebanon's Cumberland University announcing plans to bolt the TranSouth Conference and move to the Mid-South Conference in the fall of 2012.

MSC member Shorter University of Rome, Ga. also submitted an application to join the Gulf South Conference prior to the June 1 NCAA-mandated deadline.

Shorter currently fields teams in 21 NAIA sports, including football. It would join West Georgia and Valdosta State as GSC institutions in Georgia and provide UA-Huntsville with its second-nearest conference rival.

Union fields teams in the NCAA Division II minimum of 10 varsity sports, but does not compete in football. The only other Tennessee university in the conference is Christian Brothers University in Memphis.

"The Gulf South Conference is delighted to throw its support behind Shorter University's application for NCAA Division II membership," GSC Commissioner Nate Salant said last month.

"They bring a comprehensive and highly successful athletic program that includes football, a tradition of community engagement and outreach, and the kind of campus-wide support that emphasizes going to the games and matches.

"Shorter is clearly one of the institutions we need as we re-populate the GSC with like-minded institutions committed to winning regional and national championships and to academic integrity."

The Executive Committee of the GSC unanimously endorsed Union's application for NCAA Division II membership on April 27.

Union athletic spokesman Steven Aldridge said this week the university completed the application process in late May.

If accepted as NCAA members, Shorter and Union would begin a three-year transition period starting with the 2011-12 season and remain a full member of the NAIA and eligible to compete in national championships. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, the two schools would play full NCAA Division II schedules, but be ineligible for postseason play.

Arkansas Tech, Harding, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist, Arkansas-Monticello and Southern Arkansas announced last year they were leaving the GSC to form a new NCAA Division II conference with former Oklahoma-based members of the Lone Star Conference.

The league will have only five members that compete in Division II football after the defections -- North Alabama, Delta State, West Alabama, West Georgia and Valdosta State.

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