Oral Roberts to join Southland Conference

FRISCO, Texas — The Southland Conference and Oral Roberts University announced Tuesday that the institution will become the newest member of the NCAA Division I league. The Tulsa, Okla.-based university will become the 10th mem-ber of the Southland on July 1, 2012, and will begin competing for conference championships in the 2012-13 academic year.

The ORU Golden Eagles will participate in 15 of the Southland’s 17 sponsored championships, including men’s sports basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field. On the women’s side, ORU will compete in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

"The Southland Conference, after a unanimous vote of its Board of Directors, is very pleased to extend an offer of membership to Oral Roberts University," said Dr. Baker Pattillo, Southland Board Chairman and the president at Stephen F. Austin State University. "Further, we are honored to learn of the institution’s acceptance of our offer, and we are gratified by the approval of the ORU Board of Trustees, the leadership of President Mark Rutland and the diligent work of Athletic Director Mike Carter. The Southland presidents look forward to a beneficial partnership with ORU and its athletic pro-gram."

"Our number one consideration in this and all decisions is the well being of our student-athletes. We look forward to being a competitive member of such an excellent conference right here in our own neighborhood," Rutland, the ORU president, said. "This change in geography that the Southland Conference provides us will greatly benefit our athletes."

"The Southland Conference presidents have studied the possibilities of membership addition in the past few months," added Southland commissioner Tom Burnett. "From the beginning of the process, the Board has only shown interest in institutions that clearly bring added value to the league. That includes strong academic performance, athletic competitiveness and achievement, excellent playing facilities, geographic fit, media market size and presence in the market, and strong fan support. ORU excels in all of these categories, and this was evident as we began studying potential members."

ORU will be the first Oklahoma-based institution in the Southland’s 48-year history, and will be the league’s first private institution since charter members Trinity University and Abilene Christian University departed the conference in early 1970s. Tulsa is the nation’s 46th largest city with a population of 391,906, and the greater metropolitan area includes approximately one million people. The area is also the 59th largest television market in the United States.

"Our league’s geography provides travel and recruiting advantages in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and now, Oklahoma, and our warm weather fosters competitive and scheduling benefits for our teams," Burnett said. "Major airports in our region also facilitate reasonable and convenient air travel throughout the conference for our teams and fans when neces-sary."

Currently a member of the Summit League, the Golden Eagle program has set a strong competitive standard since joining the conference in 1997. Signifying all-around excellence, ORU has won nine Summit League Commissioner’s Cups in 14 years, and the Golden Eagles have totaled 75 NCAA tournament appearances in that time. The athletic program has had 68 All-America selections since 1998, as well as an indoor and outdoor track national champion and two Olympians.

"The Southland Conference has proven that it is a strong and historic mid-major conference, and we are excited about competing in the league," Carter, the ORU athletic director, said. "The geographical footprint of the Southland will help us in recruiting, both for athletics and for the university."

In men’s basketball, the Golden Eagles can boast defeating a team from a BCS or powerful basketball conference every year since 2002-03, including wins over No. 3 Kansas in 2006, No. 13 New Mexico in 2009, as well as other recent victories over Arkansas, Utah, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Missouri. The program has 13 postseason tournament trips in its history, including five NCAA tournaments and an Elite Eight appearance in 1974.

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