Campbell to leave Atlantic Sun for Big South

Updated: May 13, 2009, 6:35 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Fifteen years after Campbell left the Big South Conference in a tiff, the Camels will rejoin the league in the 2011-12 academic year.

A person with knowledge of the decision said Campbell will leave the Atlantic Sun for a league with schools closer to its Buies Creek, N.C., campus. The move will include the men's and women's basketball teams, but not the new football program, which will remain in the non-scholarship Pioneer League

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because an official announcement had not been made. The school called a news conference for Thursday morning to "announce an exciting new direction for Fighting Camel athletics."

The move was first reported by The Fayetteville Observer.

Campbell was a charter member of the Big South in 1983, but left for what is now the Atlantic Sun 11 years later in part because of a dispute over playing contests on Sundays, which against the policies of the Baptist school. There was also pressure for Campbell to play basketball games in nearby Fayetteville instead of its tiny on-campus gym.

The school has since built a larger, on-campus arena and is expected to agree to play away Big South games on Sundays.

Campbell will give the Big South 11 schools, the most in league history. Campbell will join Gardner-Webb which also recently left the Atlantic Sun for the Big South. That left Campbell without its closest neighbor in the Atlantic Sun, which stretches into Florida.

The Big South's schools are concentrated in the Carolinas and Virginia, which will cut travel costs.

It's uncertain how the Big South will handle its basketball tournaments after Campbell joins and Presbyterian becomes eligible for postseason tournaments when it becomes a full-fledged member of Division I. The Big South's men's basketball tournament currently is played at the higher seeds and includes only the top eight teams.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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