A conference merger is happening at the NAIA level, creating a 20-team mega conference

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The Mid-South and Sun Conferences at the NAIA level have announced a merger, and the combination of the two conferences will create the largest football conference in all of college athletics, creating a 20-team brand new Mid-South Conference.

Late last week, conference officials announced that, starting in 2017, the new Mid-South conference will consist of 20 teams and will include three divisions. The new conference will include the 13 teams from the Mid-South conference including Bethel University, Bluefield College, Campbellsville University, Cincinnati Christian (OH), Cumberland University (KY), University of the Cumberlands (KY), Faulkner University, Georgetown College, Kentucky Christian, Lindsey Wilson, University of Pikeville, Reinhardt University and Union College.

Teams from the Mid-South will combine with six teams from the Sun Conference that include Ave Maria University, Edward Waters, Point University, Southeastern University, Warner University, and Webber International. A seventh team, St. Andrew's University, is scheduled to begin football in 2017.

Ron Pavan, the director of athletics at Cumberland, calls the new division "the powerhouse of NAIA football" in a piece from the Columbia Daily Herald. In total, teams in the new mega conference will consist of schools from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Florida.

“I could not be more excited about the expansion to create the largest football conference in the country. This opportunity to promote student-athletes who are learning how to be Champions of Character and the importance of values-based education is important to each school in the Mid-South Conference,” chair of the Mid-South Conference Board of Directors Dr. Michael Carter explained. Carter is also the president of Campbellsville University.

While conference officials note that the merger brings together schools of similar values, the driving force behind the 20-team mega conference is scheduling.

“While the driving force behind this venture is to alleviate the difficulty of scheduling, there are a number of other benefits that will be realized by expanding this football conference. This merger will also increase our football footprint with like-minded schools who share our mission to provide a competitive experience to all student-athletes.”

Teams in the new Mid-South will be split into the following divisions;

Bluegrass: Bethel, Campbellsville, Cincinnati Christian, Cumberland University, Georgetown College, Kentucky Christian, and Lindsey Wilson

Appalachian: Bluefield, University of the Cumblerlands, Point, Pikeville, Reinhardt, St. Andrew's, Union

Sun: Ave Maria, Edward Waters, Faulkner, Southeastern, Warner, Webber International

The new, expanded conference will allow a total of three teams to get an automatic bid to the NAIA playoff.

The move to one giant conference begs the question; Could this possibly be the start of something bigger? Something that even the NCAA may look to adopt?

Read more on the expansion here.