The Big South Conference will get bigger today.
One of the youngest Division I leagues in the NCAA, the Big South's membership was to expand with the announcement that Towson State and UMBC would be joining the conference for the school year.
Officials at Big South headquarters in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and both local universities declined comment yesterday, but Big South commissioner Buddy Sasser acknowledged that he would at a downtown hotel today for a news conference called jointly by both schools.
In Towson State and UMBC, the Big South Conference gains a foothold in Baltimore, which would be the largest metropolitan area in a league that currently stretches from South Carolina to Virginia.
In the Big South, Towson State and UMBC will find a safe haven after the disintegration of the East Coast Conference, which is without an NCAA basketball tournament bid for the first time since 1974-75.
The Big South will lose Davidson to the Southern Conference next year, and the addition of Towson State and UMBC would give it nine members for 1992-93. Liberty and Radford are located in Virginia, Campbell and UNC-Asheville are in North Carolina, and Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina and Winthrop are in South Carolina.
Charleston Southern and Campbell joined Division I in the 1970s, while the other five made the move up between 1984 and '86. Charleston is a 580-mile drive from Baltimore. The closest Big South school is Liberty, 220 miles away in Lynchburg.
Formed in 1984 and registered as a Division I conference in 1985, the Big South completed the NCAA's mandatory five-year waiting period last year, when it received a waiver into the Division I tournament along with the new Patriot League. Coastal Carolina won a play-in game to get in the 64-team field, where the Chanticleers threw a first-round scare into Indiana.
Towson State and UMBC could help the Big South regain the bid to the NCAA baseball tournament it lost this year due to a weakened power rating. The Tigers and Retrievers also could help it get an automatic bid in soccer, in which Radford has been strong in recent years behind Dante Washington and several other Columbia products.