Jul 14, 2010 11:48:07 AM
Nine institutions in Arkansas and Oklahoma announced Tuesday that they plan to apply for permission to create a new Division II conference.
Six of the nine institutions are from Arkansas: the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Arkansas Tech University, Harding University, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University and Southern Arkansas University. The other three are East Central University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
"The intent of the conference is to group together similar institutions in terms of budgets and goals," said a joint statement from the presidents, chancellors and directors of athletics of the nine institutions. "Furthermore, the conference is intended to be made up of universities that field an intercollegiate football program. Our most important goals in this new endeavor are to limit time away from class and limit our travel costs."
The six Arkansas schools currently are members of the Gulf South Conference and the three Oklahoma schools currently compete in the Lone Star Conference. The move will leave the Gulf South Conference with eight members, five of which sponsor football. The Lone Star Conference recently announced the addition of University of the Incarnate Word.
"One of the most significant benefits of making this move is partnering with schools that we have known and competed against for years before we went into the Gulf South Conference," said Ouachita Athletics Director David Sharp. "We will be renewing relationships that we have had going back into the '70s."
The nine institutions plan to submit a strategic plan, constitution and bylaws to the Division II Membership Committee by December 1. The prospective new conference will not affect schedules for the 2010-11 academic year.
Lone Star Commissioner Stan Wagnon issued the following statement in the wake of the actions:
"Withdrawing members are obligated to play all approved LSC athletic competitions with other members up to the effective withdrawal date. In the event of inability or refusal to meet those obligations, the withdrawing member(s) shall pay a financial penalty unless such competitions are waived or modified by written consent of the parties affected.
"I continue to work with administrators at those institutions that are committed to LSC membership and we remain confident in the future success of the league."
The Gulf South Conference released the following statement: "The Gulf South Conference ... will continue to communicate with (the) Arkansas schools regarding the official departure process. The group's decision creates a few challenges in football scheduling, but the conference is moving forward with solutions that solve those issues and will actually strengthen us. The GSC is excited about the future thanks to the academic excellence and athletic success of its remaining core member institutions, likelihood of expansion and potential football scheduling alliances with like-minded leagues."
No decisions have been made yet regarding the name of the new conference or the location of the conference office.
Conference Carolinas expands
In other conference news, Conference Carolinas recently announced the addition of King College and North Greenville University. Conference member institutions voted unanimously to accept both schools and expand the league to 13 teams.
"Both schools share Conference Carolinas' commitment to developing scholar-athletes who excel both in the classroom and on the playing field, and we are pleased to strengthen our league through their membership," said Betsy Fleming, president of Converse College and the Conference Carolinas executive committee.
Both schools are NCAA Division II members and already play many Conference Carolinas members. The scheduling of sports participation starting in the fall of 2011 will allow sufficient time for scheduling changes and orientation to conference membership responsibilities and requirements. Both schools enter the conference as independent Division II members.
"It is not often that a conference which shares equal values for academic and athletic excellence has the opportunity to add members having identical values. Fortunately we were presented that opportunity," Commissioner Alan Patterson said. "In today's climate of conference alignment often based on income production, it is refreshing that we were able to expand based on like student-athlete educational experiences."