(STATS) - The Big South Conference continues to build in football, announcing Tuesday the University of North Alabama will join as an associate member beginning with the 2019 season.
North Alabama will be rising to the FCS level from Division II, where it won national titles from 1993-95 to become the first school in NCAA scholarship football to win three consecutive titles. The Lions will transition into the Atlantic Sun Conference, which doesn't sponsor football, but has a partnership with the Big South for automatic associate membership in the sport.
Campbell University announced last month it will move from the Pioneer Football League to the Big South in 2018. With North Alabama's arrival a year later, Big South football will have eight members, an all-time high.
"With the Lions' strong and proud history in football, we know UNA will be an outstanding member," Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander said.
While North Alabama will immediately play a full Big South schedule, its games will not count in the standings and the Lions will not be eligible for the conference championship or the FCS playoffs until 2022 when the athletic program receives active full-fledged Division I status.
This season, UNA has advanced to the Division II semifinals in its 21st all-time playoff appearance. The Lions are under the guidance of former Temple coach Bobby Wallace, who is in his second coaching stint with the Gulf South Conference program.
The Big South's current football programs are Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, Liberty, Presbyterian and associate members Kennesaw State and Monmouth.