SAU joins new athletic conference

Southern Arkansas University is now a member of the Great American Conference.

The Muleriders join a nine-member league that includes six NCAA Division II universities from Arkansas and three from Oklahoma. The universities include SAU, Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, East Central University in Ada, Okla., Harding University in Searcy, Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Okla.,  Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Okla., and the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

According to a joint statement from the member institutions’ presidents and chancellors, the name was chosen to “reflect
the diversity of the league’s geographic regions, from the Mississippi Delta of southeast Arkansas to the plains of western
Oklahoma.”

The six Arkansas schools are currently members of the Gulf South Conference while the Oklahoma schools hold membership in the Lone Star Conference.

Much of the impetus for the new league, according to the CEO’s, was to bring together institutions with similar athletic and academic profiles as well as those in geographic proximity to  lessen travel costs and missed class time for student-athletes.

The new conference also recalls part of the athletic history of both states when the three Oklahoma schools were part of the now-defunct Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference and the six Arkansas schools were part of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. Teams from the OIC and AIC were frequent opponents in all sports.

“It is truly exciting for us to be part of this new conference,” said Dr. David F. Rankin, president of Southern Arkansas. “The Great American Conference will be composed of nine fine universities, and I believe that our student-athletes will benefit as well as Mulerider fans everywhere.”

Jay Adcox, director of athletics at SAU, stated, “We look forward to renewing old rivalries and are pleased that the conference has chosen a truly great and patriotic name that will instill a sense of pride on both a regional and national level.”

Will Prewitt, former associate commissioner of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, was named commissioner of the new conference. “This is an incredible opportunity to build a conference from the ground up,” said Prewitt. “When I look at the member institutions and their respective athletic histories, I think we have a chance to build something special.”

The new league plans to begin competition in the fall of 2011 after approval from the NCAA.

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