COLUMBIA, Ky. -- Eric Ward of Lexington, Ky., has been named the next commissioner of the Mid-South Conference.
Ward becomes the conference’s fourth commissioner after being selected by the Mid-South Board of Presidents. He will assume the office Nov. 15. Ward replaces Steve Baker, who resigned from the position on Aug. 23.
“Eric is a dynamic leader, and we are excited about what he will bring to the commissioner’s office,” said Dr. James L. Hurley, University of Pikeville president and chair of the council of presidents. “He has a great passion for the NAIA and in particular the Mid-South Conference.
“Eric’s knowledge and expertise will not only serve our institutions well, but also enrich the student-athlete’s experience while expanding the footprint of the Mid-South Conference.”
Randy Vernon, University of the Cumberlands director of athletics, will continue to serve as MSC interim commissioner until Nov. 15.
“Randy Vernon has provided invaluable leadership during this critical interim period,” Hurley said. “He is a selfless individual, and we appreciate his service to the conference.”
Ward -- who was Georgetown College director of athletics for a decade -- said he looks forward to leading the Mid-South, which includes 16 schools in seven states.
“I am excited about the opportunity to serve the Mid-South Conference as commissioner,” Ward said. “Having spent 10 years serving as director of athletics at Georgetown, I have a great appreciation and passion for the member institutions that make up this conference. They are among the finest small colleges and universities in the region, with outstanding academic and athletic traditions.”
Ward served as director of athletics at Georgetown from 2002-11. He oversaw the administration and supervision of 18 NAIA men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics programs. He established Georgetown as a “Program Center” for the NAIA Champions of Character initiative in 2005 and served as a member of the NAIA Champions of Character National Faculty.
Most recently, Ward was president and chief executive officer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass in Lexington, and president of Ward Consulting Group.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ward led a non-profit social services agency that served more than 500 at-risk children in 14 Central Kentucky counties.
With Ward Consulting Group, he provided college-planning services -- including college selection, recruiting, admissions and financial aid -- for high school student-athletes.
“It will be an honor for me to serve the presidents, athletic directors, coaches and staff members of these institutions,” Ward said. “My immediate priorities will be focused on strengthening membership and growing revenue to ensure that the Mid-South Conference maintains a position of leadership and prestige within the NAIA.”
Cumberland University has been a member of the MSC off and on since 1995. The school announced plans in August to move to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, an NCAA Division II league. It’s a process expected to take a few years with CU remaining in the Mid-South for at least another year or two.
The Mid-South Conference was formed in 1995 to serve as the competitive base for the institutions' athletic programs. The move effectively merged the athletic pursuits of similar institutions. The conference is unique in its broad-based athletic competition for men and women, offering championships in 20 sports.
The Mid-South Conference contains 10 full-time members and six associate members. The membership includes Bluefield (Va.) College, Campbellsville (Ky.) University, Cumberland (Tenn.) University, University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), Georgetown (Ky.) College, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College, University of Pikeville (Ky.), University of Rio Grande (Ohio), Shawnee State (Ohio) University, St. Catharine (Ky.) College, Belhaven (Miss.) University, Bethel (Tenn.) University, Faulkner (Ala.) University, Kentucky Christian University, Reinhardt (Ga.) University and Union (Ky.) College.