OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso, on Thursday held an interim study discussing pros and cons of forming an Oklahoma-only Division II Sports Conference.
The study was held before the House Higher Education and Career Tech Committee.
“I wanted to explore whether forming an Oklahoma Athletic Conference for our Division Two schools is something that would be beneficial to Oklahoma students, these schools, taxpayers and other stakeholders,” Vancuren said. “The input of our presenters was extremely beneficial in looking at both sides of the issue,”
Vancuren said the topic is something that will need to hold until after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Constitutional Convention is complete later this fall. The historic special constitutional convention is set to convene in November with action expected to be taken in January.
The NCAA announced the meeting in July saying it is intended to propose dramatic changes to the NCAA Constitution to reimagine aspects of college sports so the Association can more effectively meet the needs of current and future college athletes.
Vancuren, a former coach, said if the college sports landscape changes in the least, he wants to revisit this topic. He said his hope is to get more interest and media coverage for Division II school athletics.
Presenters at Thursday’s study included representatives from Oklahoma's Division II colleges and universities.
Many agreed with Vancuren that additional interest and coverage would be great but shared some concerns with starting a new Oklahoma-only conference.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University President Randy Beutler began the study by explaining NCAA requirements for beginning a new athletic conference. He said a new conference would need to have 10 schools, each paying a $10,000 participation fee. Each would be required to develop a business plan and have a student advisory board and a commissioner. New conferences are ineligible for a year and face automatic qualifier ineligibility for five years. Of course, all of this could change in the upcoming constitutional convention.
East Central University President Katricia Pierson said she feared a new division might diminish her school’s ability to recruit from out of state, potentially affecting enrollment.
Other presenters weren’t high on the ineligibility periods that come with forming a new conference.
Potential savings, travel time and more time for academics were factors that played in favor of forming an Oklahoma-only conference.
Other schools represented on Thursday were Cameron University, Rogers State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Christian University, Southern Nazarene University, Northeastern State University.
According to Vancuren, there are currently 11 Division II universities in Oklahoma competing in three athletic conferences: the Great American Conference (GAC); the Lone Star Conference; and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Conference (MIAA). School teams travel in and out of state to compete.