Barton announces return of football

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After 68 years, football is coming back to Barton College.

The NCAA Division II college made the ground-breaking announcement Tuesday that football will return as an intercollegiate sport.

No timetable was given for the formation of the first Bulldogs football team since 1950 when Atlantic Christian College, as the school was known until 1990, ended a five-year run. Atlantic Christian originally had a football team, nicknamed the “Little Christians,” from 1920 until 1930.

Not much information was provided in Tuesday’s press release from Barton other than the college’s board of trustees Saturday “made the bold, unanimous decision to approve a football program for the Barton campus in Wilson.”

“This is an exciting time for Barton College,” Barton President Douglas N. Searcy said in the release. “During the past three years, Barton College has focused on being bold. We’ve set that course of action internally for our faculty and staff. And, everyday, we are moving forward boldly, addressing new initiatives and doing tremendous work with our students. We know that we also have to make choices institutionally that will continue to expand our footprint and provide new and exciting opportunities for our students as well as positively engage our friends and partners in the community. Bringing football to campus is exactly that kind of bold choice. Football will undoubtedly create a tremendous surge of energy and enthusiasm among students, as well as faculty, staff, alumni and the Wilson community.”

The release cited the academic success of Barton student-athletes as a factor in the decision to expand its athletic program to include football.

The release stated that the board’s decision came in part through a feasibility student that involved “trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and student participation.”

The college plans to form an implementation team, including faculty, staff and student leaders, to begin the process of establishing the third incarnation of the Bulldogs football program. No information was given as to whether the college plans to build a playing and/or practice facility or exactly how the funding would be provided. More information will emerge in the “coming weeks regarding the inaugural season.”

Barton currently has 11 intercollegiate teams each for men’s and women’s sports, including indoor and outdoor track and field. The college most recently added men’s lacrosse, which will begin play in the spring of 2019. Men’s and women’s swimming and women’s lacrosse were added in the 2016-17 academic year.

Football is currently not sponsored by Conference Carolinas, of which Barton is the only charter member remaining from the original North State Intercollegiate Conference. The league moved from the NAIA ranks to NCAA Division II in 1995. Conference Carolinas members Limestone College and North Greenville University currently sponsor football teams. Limestone competes in the Div. II South Atlantic Conference while North Greenville is an independent program.