The South Atlantic Conference will add Barton College and Erskine College as football-only affiliate members for the 2022 and '23 seasons, the league has announced.
Barton College is located in Wilson, N.C., in between Raleigh and Greenville. Erskine is in Due West, S.C., in the northwestern quadrant of the state not far from the Georgia border.
"We are thrilled to have Barton and Erskine join the South Atlantic Conference as associate members in football," said South Atlantic Conference Commissioner Patrick Britz. "As two new programs in the region, both institutions have done a tremendous job of getting football off the ground and we look forward to having them join our conference for the 2022 and 2023 seasons."
The framing of the additions begs the question as to what happens beyond the 2023 campaign. Multiple members of the SAC staff did not immediately respond to messages from FootballScoop seeking clarification.
Both schools recently re-launched football after decades-long absences. Barton announced football's return in 2018 for the first time since 1950, while Erskine revived the sport after 69 years without. Both schools planned to launch in 2020 but were delayed to this spring due to the pandemic.
Barton and Erskine celebrated their re-launches by opening the spring against each other. Erskine won the reunion game, 30-28, on Feb. 27.
"Barton College is grateful to the South Atlantic Conference Presidents Council for accepting our application as an Associate football member," said Barton AD Todd Wilkinson. "The support of Commissioner Britz and the team assembled to visit Barton to consider our request is much appreciated. I am really excited for Barton College and the football program to be an Associate Member in the SAC. The competitive challenge is huge, but the notoriety and prestige that our new football program will receive from this regional relationship was a goal of ours from the beginning and a true game-changer in the football program's immediate future."
"We are thrilled to be part of the South Atlantic Conference in football beginning in the fall of 2022," said Erskine AD Mark Peeler. "The SAC has a respected historical reputation in our geographical footprint, so to be able to compete with not only like-minded schools, but in many cases, natural rivalries is a blessing for the Flying Fleet. We are honored and grateful to be part of this conference which will provide our football program with an added boost as we head into our second year of play."
The Barton and Erskine additions will split the SAC's now-12 team membership (Emory & Henry College is also joining as a full member this fall) into two divisions with a championship game beginning in 2022. That alignment will be announced at a later date.
"Moving to divisional play and having the ability to play a conference championship game is something that we have wanted to do for a very long time," Britz stated. "Our goal is to have two divisions of six with each division playing three cross-over games and two non-conference games each year, which will leave the final week of play open for a championship. Additionally, the remaining 10 teams will play cross-over games during the final week of the season. It is a unique concept, but we feel it will be a great experience for our student-athletes, coaches, and fans, as we put the top two teams on the field for the SAC title each year."