|Sept. 15||Valdosta St. at Angelo St.|
|Sept. 27||Abilene Christian at Delta St.|
|Oct. 4||Delta St. at Tarleton St.|
|Oct. 4||Midwestern St. at W. Alabama|
|Oct. 6||N. Alabama at Texas A&M-Kingsville|
|Oct. 25||W. Texas A&M at W.t Georgia|
|Nov. 1||Tarleton St. at N. Alabama|
|Nov. 3||Texas A&M-Kingsville at Valdosta St.|
|Nov. 3||W. Alabama at Abilene Christian|
|Nov. 10||W. Georgia at Midwestern St.|
RICHARDSON, Texas — The Lone Star Conference and Gulf South Conference have joined forces to create the GSC-LSC First and Ten Challenge, a regular-season series set to debut in 2012 that will match up football teams from two of the best leagues in all of NCAA Division II.
The event will include a total of 10 interconference games involving all five of the GSC’s football-playing members — Delta State, North Alabama, Valdosta State, West Alabama and West Georgia — and six of the LSC’s nine — Abilene Christian, Angelo State, Midwestern State, Tarleton State, Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M.
“I want to commend Commissioner Nate Salant and the athletics administrators at Gulf South Conference institutions for their spirit of cooperation in creating this challenge event,” LSC commissioner Stan Wagnon said. “Those associated with Lone Star Conference football are excited to join the GSC in this effort, and we’re committed to ensuring this event becomes a showcase for the NCAA and particularly for the tremendous football being played in Division II.”
All five GSC teams will play one home game and one road game as part of the event, as will ACU, MSU, TSU and TAMUK from the LSC. LSC members ASU and WTAMU will play one game apiece.
The 10 contests include: Valdosta State at Angelo State (Sept. 15); Abilene Christian at Delta State (Sept. 27); Midwestern State at West Alabama (Oct. 4); Delta State at Tarleton State (Oct. 4); North Alabama at Texas A&M-Kingsville (Oct. 6); West Texas A&M at West Georgia (Oct. 25); Tarleton State at North Alabama (Nov. 1); Texas A&M-Kingsville at Valdosta State (Nov. 3); West Alabama at Abilene Christian (Nov. 3); and West Georgia at Midwestern State (Nov. 10).
Of the 10 games, five have been scheduled for Thursday night and four of those are tentatively set to be televised live.
“When I canvassed our fans and asked about the idea of seeing teams like Abilene Christian, Texas A&M-Kingsville and West Texas A&M on their campuses, there was a lot of excitement and interest,” GSC commissioner Nate Salant said. “Our fans know the Lone Star schools and view them as high-quality opponents. Stan tells me that Lone Star folks see GSC schools the same way, so we think this will spike home attendance on both sides. It’s also the kind of cross-region, almost national, inter-conference play that football fans hunger for, so we believe we’re addressing a real appetite.”
The event is being created for two general purposes: first, both conferences are partnering to address a mutual need for additional non-conference games due to the conference membership changes that have occurred in recent months; and second, football programs from both conference’s are highly competitive and desire to play the very best non-conference competition as a means of better preparing Division II postseason competition.
The First and Ten Challenge name was chosen to symbolize the beginning of a ‘new set of downs’ for both conferences after going through recent membership changes, with the LSC set to move forward with nine football-playing members next year while the GSC starts anew with five football-playing members in 2012.
The highlight of the 2012 schedule may be TAMUK’s games. The Javelinas’ contest against North Alabama is a rematch of the 1994 NCAA Division II National Championship Game won by UNA 16-10, while the TAMUK-Valdosta State game replays the 2002 national semifinal game in which the Blazers prevailed 21-12.
The remaining eight games will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
GSC member Delta State played for the Division II national title last month. GSC football teams have claimed 10 national championships, including seven of the past 19. LSC football teams have tallied 14 national titles, most recently in 1982.
“Both conferences have a tremendous amount of pride in their football programs. For the LSC, it’s been too long since we’ve crowned a national champion. The football is too good in this conference, and it’s time we asserted ourselves again on the national stage,” Wagnon said. “These games against the Gulf South certainly will keep our teams in the national conversation, and it’s my belief the stronger competition will serve our teams well as they advance into the postseason. We’ve had teams knocking on the door for 10-15 years now, and I hope 5-10 years from now people will look at this challenge event and recognize it as a turning point that helped LSC teams take that next step.”
Officials from both leagues think the event has great potential for sponsorship opportunities and television exposure. Gaining financial support through corporate partnerships will help to ensure to the success of this event, due to the high travel costs associated with making the long trips between GSC and LSC campuses.
“The 10 games we’ve lined up for this event are marquee match-ups. The lineup of games just doesn’t get any better in Division II, so certainly we think the event will provide a unique sponsorship opportunity,” Wagnon stated. “It will have far greater reach than a typical athletic event involving regional universities, as the exposure for this event will span the entire length of the football season with visibility in key markets in Texas and throughout the southeastern United States.”
The event has potential for television exposure as well, with the GSC being the nation’s first Division II conference to have its own broadcast network. Each year 10 GSC football games are broadcast via Charter Sports South, reaching millions of households in the southeast. Officials from both leagues are working to build upon the GSC’s efforts and expand coverage into Texas markets for the games in this event.
While only the match-ups for 2012 have been settled, both conferences have expressed interest in continuing this event in future years. Plans for 2013 and beyond will be determined as early as this spring.
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