Pending approval from the USC’s board of trustees at a meeting on Dec. 19, the Upstate Spartans will join the likes of Gardner-Webb University, Charleston Southern, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville on July 1, 2018.
USC Upstate moved from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division II in 2007 and began competing as a Division I school in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The university officially received its Division I certification in August 2011.
“I could not be more pleased and excited that the University of South Carolina Upstate has been extended an invitation to join the Big South Conference,” USC Upstate’s Chancellor Brendan Kelly said, in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity for the Upstate Spartans. Our athletic teams will be more competitively matched with colleges in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.”
USC Upstate has 17 varsity sports programs, including men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, cross country, and track and field; baseball for men; and softball and volleyball for women.
“On behalf of all the presidents and chancellors of the Big South Conference, I am very pleased to welcome the University of South Carolina Upstate as the newest member of our conference,” aid Mary Grant, Big South president and chancellor of UNC Asheville, in a statement. “Its commitment to Division I excellence in all facets of its program, and its location in the Big South footprint make it a great fit. We are looking forward to watching the Spartans compete and grow as a Big South member.”
Kelly said since all Big South schools are located within 300 miles of each other, he expects USC Upstate student-athletes will miss 1,200 fewer classes.
Big South was founded in 1983.
The conference’s current membership is comprised of 10 schools in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. The list includes Charleston Southern, Presbyterian College, Winthrop University, Campbell, Gardner-Webb, High Point, UNC Asheville, Liberty, Longwood, and Radford.
Julio Freire, athletic director and vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at USC Upstate, said four rival schools are located within 65 miles of the university’s Spartanburg campus.
“Members of the golf teams are fans of other Upstate Spartan sports and they will absolutely love being able to drive a short distance to watch their friends play,” said Todd Lawton, head coach of men’s and women’s golf at USC Upstate, in a statement. “The games we play as members of the A-Sun Conference are far away so our student-athletes have few opportunities to support each other with game attendance.”