Rio Grande leaving AMC to join Mid-South Conference

Published 2:41 am Friday, March 13, 2009

RIO GRANDE — This year they changed their name. Next year they’ll change their conference.

The University of Rio Grande switched its nickname from the Redmen to the Redstorm this year in a move to be politically correct, and next year the school will leave the American Mideast Conference to join the Mid-South Conference in an economical change that will cut travel expenses in half.

“The opportunity for the University of Rio Grande to participate in the Mid-South Conference is very exciting,” said athletic director Jeff Lanham.

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“We believe we are moving from on of the top NAIA D-II leagues in basketball to one of the top NAIA D-I leagues in the country. Our coaches are very thrilled about the move.”

Rio Grande becomes the 16th member of the conference. The Redstorm has been a member of the AMC since 1998 when the league expanded the old Mid-Ohio Conference and was renamed the AMC. Rio Grande joined the MOC in 1971.

Like the AMC, the Mid-South is an NAIA affiliated conference. The league office is in Louisville, Ky.

Lanham said the move has been a smooth transition to date.

“The A.D.s, coaches and administrations have been very helpful and have welcomed us with open arms. We are moving from the team in the league which is the farthest team south to a league where we are the farthest team north,” said Lanham.

“Our fall and spring sports will benefit from the move to the south.”

The Mid-South features many schools in Kentucky and Tennessee as well as West Virginia Tech and schools in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.

Travel in the AMC included trips to New York and Pennsylvania as wells as northern Ohio where visits were longer than the new schedule of trips to Kentucky and Tennessee.

The AMC has 16 members and is currently the largest NAIA-affiliated conference in the country.

Teams in the Mid-South are Tech (Montgomery, WV), Georgetown (KY), Belhaven College (Jackson, MS), Bethel College (McKenzie, TN), Campbellsville (KY), Cumberland University (Lebanon, TN), Faulkner University (Montgomery, AL), Kentucky Christian (Grayson, KY), Lambuth University (Jackson, TN), Lindsey Wilson (Columbia, KY), Pikeville (KY), Shorter College (Rome, GA), St. Catharine (KY), Union College (Barbourville, KY), U. of Cumberlands (Williamsburg, KY), and U. of Virginia’s College at Wise (VA).

“The MSC is very competitive and we are looking at this as a challenge to all of our programs,” said Lanham. “The philosophy and commitment to the students/athletes by the schools in the Mid-South Conference fit Rio’s goals. Our exposure in Kentucky will benefit our admissions goal to expand recruiting in the state of Kentucky.”

The Mid-South was formed on April 24,1995. The league brought together similar schools and offers championships in 15 sports.

Rio Grande once belonged to the KIAC during the 1960s when Lanham’s father Art was the basketball coach and athletic director. Jeff Lanham said it is exciting to renew some old rivalries.

“This has generated enthusiasm in our athletes, students and alumni, and it will rekindle old rivals for Rio,” said Lanham.