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Board of Regents approves ABAC proposal for four-year athletics, return of basketball

ATLANTA – Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will transition to four-year athletics and will bring back men’s and women’s basketball beginning in 2024-25. The proposal was approved by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

“This is a tremendous day for ABAC,” said President Tracy Brundage. “I’m not just talking about athletics. This a great day for the entire college and our community. This directly aligns with our goals and strategic initiatives in enrollment and brand recognition. The support that ABAC received from many community partners, as well as the plan our team put together, proved to the Board of Regents that this was the right decision.”

Basketball was a keystone of the college’s athletic program for decades until being discontinued in 2008. The college will hire a head men’s coach while Athletic Director Chuck Wimberly will coach the women’s team.

“ABAC has a tremendous basketball history and I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to recapture that energy on campus,” Wimberly said. “Basketball is an opportunity to create a great atmosphere for our students and the community. But it’s also a chance to show off our college and all the great things we offer academically. To say I’m excited is an understatement.”

Brundage championed the move to four-year athletics almost immediately after arriving on campus last summer. Because the college offers 14 4-year degree programs and four 2-year degree programs, ABAC’s participation in the National Junior College Athletic Association did not match its academic structure.

“Our student-athletes have been forced to choose pursuing their athletic career for another two years at another school or continuing their education here at ABAC,” Brundage said. “With the move to four-year athletics, those student-athletes will be able to stay here. That is important for our enrollment, but it’s really a matter of serving our students well.”

Brundage added that ABAC is planning to apply for membership in the Southern States Conference, an NAIA league that currently has 15 teams including five in Georgia. One of the letters of support written on ABAC’s behalf to the Board of Regents came from SSC Commissioner Mike Hall. He toured ABAC earlier this year and said the college would be a good fit for the conference. He pointed out that the SSC Membership Committee typically requires a campus visit, but Hall petitioned for that visit to be waived after his findings. The committee unanimously agreed.

“Athletically, ABAC has so much to offer. Our success every year is evidence of that,” Wimberly said. “We have tradition, facilities, and community support already in place. Moving to four-year athletics will continue to propel us forward.”

The Golden Stallions and Golden Fillies both enjoyed another successful athletic season in 2022-23. The baseball team advanced to the state championship game while the softball team recorded 31 wins. Nationally, both tennis teams are ranked in the top 5 and the golf team is ranked in the top 10.

The proposal submitted to the Board of Regents explained how needed funds will be gained to make the transition. The plan calls for a $15 increase in athletic fees, which have not been raised in 14 years. Also, the Stallion Athletics Fundraising Advisory Committee has been formed to assist ABAC’s Office of College Advancement in keeping the athletic program financially viable.

“Participation in a four-year athletics conference will allow ABAC to continue to build our brand,” Brundage said. “Athletics can bind a campus community together with a sense of pride and identity. It’s more than just a logo or a mascot. A brand embodies mission, character, history, and legacy that has an emotional impact. ABAC has that and this move will help us further our mission athletically and academically.”

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