Trinity on the move

Trinity to fully join Southern Athletic Association in 2025

In a campus-wide email released on March 9, 2023, Trinity University announced that it had accepted an invitation to join the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) for athletics. The move, effective starting in the fall semester of the 2025-26 academic year, will see the Tigers enter the conference as a full member, where Trinity Football currently competes as an affiliate member. With this announcement, Trinity Athletics will be leaving the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) in the fall 2025 semester. The move will expand Trinity’s competition and bring Trinity onto a greater national-level conference for the first time since the SCAC-SAA split in 2011.

The SAA has eight full members, split between Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. In 2011, the conference split from the SCAC due to increased travel times after the introduction of numerous teams in Texas. The move caused a significant split as the conference shrunk, essentially forming a border between East and West. When the SCAC stopped sponsoring football in 2017, Trinity returned to the SAA and revived the rivalries that spanned back to the 1970s when Trinity joined the conference. With Trinity making a full move in 2025, head football coach Jerheme Urban is excited to revive the old rivalries.

“I have nostalgia from the late ‘90s and early 2000s when I was a student, and in a lot of ways, we’re just going home,” Urban said. “The [conference] had the core historical schools, but as it expanded it became harder for schools in the east. Looking at Trinity and Southwestern going back, it’s basically the same version of the SCAC from the ‘90s and 2000s. There were phenomenal experiences and people got to see all kinds of good schools that are nationally ranked like us, and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity.”

Though the SCAC has provided Trinity with the luxury of easy travel, the competition field hasn’t been as strong in certain sports. Women’s Basketball, Swim and Dive and others have seen major success, which leads to issues in postseason NCAA tournaments due to strength of schedule, as many of their SCAC opponents have lower win percentages.

This move includes women’s basketball, who, under head coach Cameron Hill, have gone 142-18 in the SCAC since 2012. Hill was excited about the shift, both for the community and the competition.

“I’m grateful to our administration and executives for making a decision that’s in the best interest of Trinity as a whole,” Hill said. “Every sport is going to be different in terms of the competitive landscape from one conference to another, but there was a lot of due diligence that went into this decision.”

Beyond the athletic component, the conference change throws a new challenge for student-athletes attempting to manage the academic component of collegiate athletics. Because the SAA features teams as far away as Kentucky and Georgia, travel and logistics will become more difficult for coaches and teams when it comes to scheduling.

“The biggest difference between conferences is going to be the time commitment and financial commitment,” Hill said. “We’re going to travel more with more flights and there’s going to be an extra day between games. We’re going longer, which means you need to think about the academic component. There’s going to be a bit more pressure on the athletes to take care of their stuff when they’re on the road and stay on top of their work.”

Hill also mentioned the atmosphere of competition, which has a different feel when compared  conference-to-conference.

“You’re going to get the landscape of a Kentucky gym versus a Texas gym, which is different from Memphis or Sherman. The primary focus is maintaining the standard of performance,” Hill said.

In addition to the excitement around the atmosphere, Urban is excited about the campus aspect of the conference shift.

“Central messaging will be nice, with everything under one conference. You won’t have different conference banners around campus, and there will be one website for parents as opposed to having to move around. Having everyone together will be great because it will have a lot of new people come to our campus.”

Urban also highlighted a surge in alumni involvement which the football program experienced when the team moved to the SAA in 2017.

“[The alumni] were excited and familiar with those opponents; they were longtime rivals. I’d like to think we’ll see some of that in other sports as well.”

Though the change will not take effect for another three years, it gives an opportunity for fans to take in new competition in every sport. Trinity joins Berry College (GA), Birmingham-Southern College (AL), Centre College (KY), Hendrix College (AR), Millsaps College (MS), Oglethorpe University (GA), Rhodes College (TN) and Sewanee (TN). The SAA also released a statement announcing that Southwestern University from Georgetown, Texas, would also be joining the SAA from the SCAC in a move to ease travel.

Despite the challenges around the conference shift, Urban believes that it will have long-term success.

“There are going to be some interesting travel issues surrounding booking flights instead of busses, and things like that. But I think the excitement and the value of being in the SAA is going to be worth all of those challenges.”