The Oklahoman

D-II schools mull conference futures

All-Oklahoma league for 11 NCAA sports programs would face hurdles

- Berry Tramel

State House representa­tives Ronny Johns of Ada and Mark Vancuren of Owasso grew up in Oklahoma, were athletes on the small-college level when the Oklahoma schools were in the NAIA, and Johns and Vancuren became educators and coaches before entering politics.

Now, most of the schools that made up Oklahoma’s NAIA District 9 are in the NCAA Division II, spread across three conference­s. And Johns and Vancuren are interested in exploring an all-Oklahoma Division II league.

Last Thursday at the State Capitol, Vancuren led a legislativ­e interim feasibilit­y on the subject. Most of the schools were represente­d.

But Johns said not a lot of progress was made.

Oklahoma schools Southweste­rn State, Southeaste­rn State, Northweste­rn State, East Central, Oklahoma Baptist and Southern Nazarene are in the Great American Conference, along with six Arkansas schools.

Central Oklahoma, Rogers State and Northeaste­rn State are in the MidAmerica Intercolle­giate Athletic Associatio­n, comprised mostly by Kansas and Missouri schools.

Oklahoma Christian and Cameron are in the Lone Star Conference.

An all-Oklahoma league could consist of those 11 schools, eight of which play football. But Johns said the school representa­tives had a variety of concerns.

“I don’t think any headway was made,” Johns said.

Johns listed five main issues:

1. NCAA uncertaint­y. The NCAA constituti­on could be revamped. “They are really nervous about that,” Johns said.

2. A new conference must wait five years to receive an automatic berth into postseason play.

3. Football scheduling could get dicey. The Great American and MIAA schools play conference-only schedules. Finding non-conference games could be difficult for an eight-team football conference. Johns said there is some fear that the Arkansas schools in the Great American would not schedule the Oklahoma schools, should they pull out of the league.

4. The football schools believe nonfootbal­l schools have a big budget advantage, since they can sink more money into the other sports.

5. There is a substantia­l financial penalty for withdrawin­g from existing conference­s.

“I could argue with each one except for No. 1,” Johns said. “They seem to think that they will continue to get shared revenue from the NCAA basketball tournament. But there is also a fear that all of that could change.

“Anyway, it was interestin­g. Depending on what happens with the NCAA constituti­on, we could revisit it after that is drawn up.”

There was a time I supported the idea of an all-Oklahoma Division II conference.

But the football/non-football schools is a real issue. What’s more perplexing to me is the eight football-playing Oklahoma D-II schools being in separate conference­s.

But that’s more of a UCO/Northeaste­rn State issue. The other six football schools seem quite content in the Great American, even if the Arkansas schools dominate.

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