Trinity and Southwestern to move all sports to the SAA

Photo courtesy Southern Athletic Association

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The Southern Athletic Association announced that Trinity and Southwestern will become full members of the conference beginning in Fall 2025. Speculation of this move was rampant across NCAA Division III after the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference announced it was reinstating football in 2024. 

The Tigers have been an affiliate of the SAA for football since 2017. The Pirates were preparing to begin a four-year commitment to the SAA as an affiliate football member in 2023. Southwestern was an affiliate member of the American Southwest Conference last year.

The Tigers and Pirates men’s and women’s basketball program, along with every other sport, is currently a member of the SCAC. However, sources indicated that both Trinity and Southwestern were unhappy with the direction of the SCAC after it announced that McMurry would join the conference in the Fall of 2024.

“The addition of both Southwestern and Trinity to the Southern Athletic Association is exciting for all of us,” SAA Commissioner Jay Gardiner said in a statement. “These great institutions will add to the conference’s already strong athletic reputation while emphasizing the integrity of our academic missions. We welcome them both to our family.”

“The decision to join the SAA comes on the heels of the University’s recent Carnegie reclassification as a National Liberal Arts Institution. I view college athletics as one of the significant hallmarks of a residential liberal arts education, as student-athletes and their classmates alike gather inside and outside of the classroom to take on new challenges and support each other,” Trinity University president Vanessa B. Beasley said. “Trinity University is grateful to the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and its members for our shared history of decades of thrilling competition.”

"Being the newest member of the SAA presents a great opportunity for our student-athletes," Southwestern president Laura Skandera Trombley said. "The national liberal arts institutions playing in the SAA are great competitors, and this is the appropriate time to make a change that will have our students in a conference that spans states across the South. We are looking forward to hosting our SAA peers on our beautiful campus in Georgetown, Texas."

The SCAC released a statement on Twitter that read, “Today’s announcement from Southwestern and Trinity has been anticipated for some time, and we will wish them well when they transition to their new athletic conference in 2025-2026. We are focused on the stability, strength, and growth of the SCAC and will continue to provide transformational experiences for our student-athletes.”

The strength of the SCAC in football comes under question with Trinity and Southwestern departing. The conference is expected to consist of Austin College, McMurry, Texas Lutheran, Centenary College, and Lyon, which is transitioning from NAIA to Division III in 2024. Schreiner is adding football with a tentative start date of Fall 2025.

The SCAC would have an automatic bid to the Division III playoffs with six teams, but that plan would be in trouble with any other defections. The schools to watch for future movements are TLU and Centenary. A move by either of those institutions might force the SCAC into an alliance with the ASC, which is facing questions over its ability to keep its automatic bid. However, according to sources, the success of Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons is the primary reason for the recent movement away from the ASC.

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