Delta State Statesmen staying with Gulf South

By Kenneth Mister/Delta Democrat Times

GREENVILLE — The Gulf South Conference may not have stopped the bleeding, but they’ve slowed it down some.

The conference, which recently witnessed the loss of seven schools including powerhouse North Alabama, has officially welcomed the University of New Orleans to the fold.

The Board of GSC Presidents unanimously approved the Privateers’ membership request this week during the conference’s annual summer meetings in Birmingham, Ala.

“This is something we’ve worked on for a long time,” GSC Commissioner Nate Salant said in a statement. “UNO brings outstanding facilities, a commitment to growth that includes football by 2015 and a great city for future events.”

While UNO will not be an official member of the GSC until 2012-13, the Privateers will be added to the league schedule for 2011-12 in volleyball, baseball and men’s and women’s tennis — but will not be eligible for postseason play.

UNO will also compete in the 2011 GSC men’s and women’s cross country championship and the 2012 GSC men’s and women’s golf tournaments.

UNO’s marks the GSC’s first footprint in Louisiana since 1979 when Southeastern Louisiana moved to Division I.

North Alabama’s recent departure for Division I leaves the conference with just four football-playing schools — Delta State, Valdosta State, West Alabama and West Georgia — in its immediate future.

“The next couple years are going to be a little change of face,” said DSU football coach Ron Roberts, whose team advanced to the Division II championship game last season. “There’s obviously going to be a little bit of difficulty in scheduling and stuff, but I think (we’ll get through it).”

DSU Athletic Director Jeremy McClain recently said a jump to Division I is not in the school’s immediate plans.

With the loss of the six Arkansas schools and UNA’s departure, the GSC has taken a hard blow. But, so far, the conference is still standing, said Roberts.

“I think the general feeling,” he said, “is the GSC is going to remain.”