Murray Evans, Sports Information Director
RICHARDSON, Texas – Oklahoma Christian and seven other current Heartland Conference members have accepted invitations to join the Lone Star Conference starting with the 2019-20 academic year, OC President John deSteiguer said Wednesday.
The LSC Council of Presidents voted unanimously earlier this month to offer full membership to OC, Arkansas-Fort Smith, Dallas Baptist (Texas), Lubbock Christian (Texas), Rogers State, St. Edward’s (Texas), St. Mary’s (Texas) and Texas A&M International.
With 19 members, the LSC will become the biggest conference in NCAA Division II. The LSC, founded on April 25, 1931, started as a five-member conference of Texas-based schools and with the latest expansion will have 13 members in Texas, three in Oklahoma, two in New Mexico and one in Arkansas.
“We’re looking forward to being a part of the newly expanded Lone Star Conference,” deSteiguer said. “We’ve got a great athletic tradition here at OC – great coaches, great student-athletes, great teams. The larger conference will provide great stability and opportunities for us to continue to shine.”
OC will continue to compete in the Heartland Conference during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. Other details of the move to the Lone Star, such as the potential for divisional play, remain to be determined.
“This is an exciting time for the Lone Star Conference,” LSC commissioner Jay Poerner said. “The addition of these eight schools makes the LSC the largest and most dynamic conference in NCAA Division II. These 19 institutions will represent the very best in Division II through a shared commitment to excellence in academics, athletics and student-athlete development. I am thankful to the leadership of the LSC Council of Presidents for its guidance in leading this expansion effort.”
Fourteen of OC’s 16 athletic programs will compete in the Lone Star, with the university’s new swimming programs still set to compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference beginning this fall. OC’s outdoor track and field programs, which have competed in the Great American Conference the past two years, will make the move to the Lone Star in 2019-20.
The LSC will be OC’s third conference home less than a decade. OC was a member of the NAIA’s Sooner Athletic Conference from that league’s creation in 1978 until 2012, when the university began the NCAA Division II membership process and joined the Heartland. Heartland membership has dwindled from 12 to nine schools since 2014 with the departure of McMurry (Texas) to NCAA Division III, Texas-Permian Basin to the LSC and Oklahoma Panhandle State to the NAIA.
OC Athletic Director David Lynn said the move to the LSC should provide a strong home for the university’s athletic programs.
“OC is honored to be invited to join the Lone Star Conference,” Lynn said. “The Lone Star is a premiere NCAA Division II league with many national championships won in its 80-plus-year history. We are excited for the stability this move will bring to our region in Division II and look forward to developing new friendships and rivalries amongst some of the best Division II athletic programs in the country. This is an exciting day for Oklahoma Christian athletics.”
The addition of the eight Heartland institutions marks the LSC’s first expansion since Texas-Permian Basin and Western New Mexico joined the conference in 2016. The league has had 38 institutions compete as members over its 86-year history.
The LSC conducts conference championships in 17 sports (eight for men and nine for women). Men’s championships include football, cross country, basketball, baseball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, golf and tennis. Women’s titles are determined in volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, softball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, tennis and golf.
Current Lone Star members include Angelo State (Texas), Cameron, Eastern New Mexico, Midwestern State (Texas), Tarleton State (Texas), Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas A&M-Kingsville, Texas Woman’s, Texas-Permian Basin, West Texas A&M and Western New Mexico.