Last summer’s seismic shifts in the university’s athletics landscape were pushed forward with members of the college’s football playoff committee who brazenly announced the expansion to 12 teams in the CFP and then the cascading looting of the Southeast Conference.
However, as the inevitable consequences – see the stalled CFP extension; The U.S. conference was buried against members who announced their imminent retirement – unfolding throughout the university landscape, Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner Beth DeBosh and her colleague in the Greater South Kyle Calander explored the scope of the situation from a macro perspective.
They were in no hurry after the conference-perestroika-free for all, which was more like a box office at a carnival.
They talked to the heads of their member institutions – the two leagues have a combined 15 football programs moving forward – and discussed their visions for the future; it turned out that those were quite closely linked to help maintain a bright future for their residency programs of the Football Championship unit.
Following this gradual build-up and research phase, DeBosh, Calander and both leagues on Tuesday announced the first-of-its-kind new association for football programs of both Big Sky and OVC, from which Kennesaw State and UT-Martin 2021 emerged as their respective conference champions. .
The two leagues have agreed to implement a new, as yet unnamed agreement to start with their 2023 football schedule with crossover games, new competitions and fortified schedules.
In recent weeks, the methodological systematic research phase has moved into the process of actualization.
“There are times when student-athletes compete with each other, but it’s not our role to compete with each other,” DeBoss said in an exclusive interview with FootballScoop on Tuesday. “Our role as commissioners is to present a certain level of vision and, again, look at where the NCAA is going, how much more responsibility goes back to conferences, or we expect that, and realizing that FCS football conferences have been more, it’s it makes sense to be stronger together and present that vision and make sure we can communicate to our members when they talk to student-athletes, with their families, with their fan base, it will look different, but it’s a new future, it’s exciting the future, and our friendship is very enthusiastic.
“We just finished the meeting of the presidents (on Monday) and you could just feel the enthusiasm in the hall among our presidents that it will happen. They led the way; this is not happening, the commissioners can say, but without the leadership of the president who supports it, this is not happening. Our presidents enthusiastically advocated for this alliance at both conferences. “
A veteran ruler of the Greater South for more than a quarter of a century, Calander emphasized the symbiotic approach of conferences rather than the predatory nature that embraced university athletics last summer.
“When we started talking about it, it became very clear that we were coming from the same place in our goals and desires for collaboration,” Calander told FootballScoop exclusively. “And this is to give opportunities to our student-athletes in the first place. It is very important that our footballers have a home, that our student-athletes have the opportunity to express themselves, to be recognized, to play for the championships. And we looked at it as a way to work together instead of going into a pool with piranhas and trying to break up with each other.
“We believe that from the point of view of cooperation it will be very important. Not just for this relationship, but for other relationships moving forward in this changing world of university athletics. ”
Both leaders stressed that this agreement is deeper than the “ACC-Big-10-Pac-12 Alliance”, which hastily unfolded last August and was already teetering on the cliff.
“We approach this as something more than just an alliance,” said DeBosh, who has led OVC since 2009. we will keep it for 22 and 23 years, but it is really an intention to get together, hold hands and say we will be better together than alone, and we are going to build structures that support this.
“While understanding what an alliance is, it has to be something bigger. We said at least four years; it could be longer if it makes sense, but a sincere desire to say that we are going to respect that we come from two different multi-sport conferences, but come together to improve FCS football for our student-athletes and build that structure that supports it and promotes it. Our intention, our heartfelt intention, is to build something that is more important than a union. ”
With this approach at the forefront, all parties have agreed on an initial four-year period with a common framework for partnership in the Greater South Valley for 2023-26.
The OVC is headquartered in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood, and the football club members are in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois. The Greater South, located in Charlotte, has football programs in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
“There’s something to work on,” DeBosh said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and fill in some details, but it will be a project not only for us but also for our members to be a part of it, trying to shape the future. We will truly embrace this and allow our members to feel involved in this moving forward.
“We are also open to talking to others; we are delighted with what we are trying to do, and we certainly welcome other conferences or institutions that may want to be part of such a model, talk to us and have a dialogue. ”
Historical rivalry at both conferences has been a priority for conservation, as both commissioners have stated, and geographical communities have also been largely taken into account in the agreement.
“One thing I would say ahead in terms of planning is that we both feel like we’d like to try to get our original conference attendees to play with each other; I think it makes sense, ”Calander explained. “And then some form of crossover. We have not determined how many games in the conference schedule, and all this will be determined. Part of the beauty of this is that it provides answers from a regional perspective. Everyone is worried about the cost of travel, it’s a really important part of it when we look at the schedule. “
The move was also made with open thinking as it involves expansions and restructuring that unfolded across the FCS landscape last year.
“The history of the initial conference is also important, so of course we want to play in connection with the existing rivalry and the relationship we have, but to create a new rivalry in the process,” DeBosh said. “However, there is a level between our two conferences. We not only like schools, but also the geographical footprint that now gives us together.
“We understand that there may also be some membership variability in this. OVC and Big South may seek to add members and grow as membership needs, so if so, we will be ready to add new members. There is already an understanding that this group may increase. It is not necessary, but it can be ”.
The impetus that prevails this week’s public opening of the partnership, Calander acknowledged that time remains a key component in order to start fostering new rivalry across the overall geographical trail that should be the result of the association.
“If you’ve seen the movement happening lately at other conferences, what excites them the most? Except, perhaps, Power 5, everyone else is concerned about getting on planes, ”Calander said. “I think the regional aspect, the geographical aspect is very important and I think it brings rivalry, gives fans the opportunity to travel to other games and really develop exciting matches.
“In the past, we’ve had experience working with institutions that may not have been so close geographically, and sometimes it’s difficult.”