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Oklahoma schools to leave LSC next year

Conference votes to allow schools early exit

By Caleb Slinkard
On August 30, 2010


The Lone Star Conference Council of Presidents gathered Wednesday, Aug. 25 at Texas Women's University's Parkland Campus in Dallas to discuss the exit date of the five Oklahoma schools leaving the Lone Star Conference.

The Council agreed on a plan that will have all five schools exit the LSC by the end of the 2010-11 athletic seasons.

"Today's decision reflected a desire of our member institutions – the 11 that will remain and the five withdrawing – to move forward and look to the future," LSC Commissioner Stan Wagnon said. "Starting anew with the 2011-12 athletic seasons will allow everyone to get started down the respective paths that were made known earlier this summer."

Three Oklahoma schools- Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and East Central University- are leaving the LSC to join with six Arkansas schools and create a new Division II conference. The name and headquarters of this new conference have yet to be decided.

The six Arkansas schools are the University of Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas Tech, Harding, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist and Southern Arkansas, all of which are currently members of the Gulf Coast Conference. 

According to a press release by Southwestern Oklahoma State University, the universities "plan to submit a conference strategic plan, a conference constitution and conference by-laws to the NCAA by Dec. 1, 2010."

"The intent of the conference is to group together similar institutions in terms of budgets and goals," said the presidents, chancellors and directors of athletics from the universities in a joint statement. "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 other two Oklahoma schools that are leaving, North Eastern Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma, will be joining the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.

Wagnon was confident the Lone Star Conference will remain a strong and important in Division II sports.

"Having five members announce their withdrawal within a month's time is certainly a significant occurrence, but there's no reason for alarm with regard to the viability of the Lone Star Conference," Wagnon said. "This league is entering its 80th year of athletic competitions and we've seen quite a few membership changes during that time. There were times the league grew stronger through addition, but I view this as an opportunity for the league to become stronger through subtraction. I don't mean any disrespect to those schools who are withdrawing, but the fact remains that a more streamlined Lone Star Conference stands a better chance at unity, becomes more able to agree upon a shared vision and has an enhanced capability of favorably positioning ourselves to the various publics we serve."

The moves raised several questions for the LSC, which will change from being a two division conference to just one

"In the past few months leading up to these recent developments, the conference has been considering a move away from the divisional model with hopes of bringing about more unity and a streamlined identity that is more attractive from branding and marketing perspectives," Wagnon said. "Historically, the conference has never fully embraced the divisional concept. The conference implemented divisions in 1997 and applied that model to six of its 16 sports, and today we are using the divisional model in only four sports: football, men's basketball, women's basketball and softball."

The smaller LSC won't hinder A&M-Commerce's athletic goals according to head football coach Guy Morriss, but they will force the football team to compete against the LSC's most powerful schools on a yearly basis.

"I can understand why the Oklahoma schools are leaving," Morriss said. "But now it's like the old Lone Star Conference again with the exception of [Eastern] New Mexico. We can make it work."

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