The following is an open letter from NSU Director of Athletics and Chief Athletics Officer Tony Duckworth addressing his thoughts on the recent public forums on conference affiliation.

An open letter to RiverHawks Nation

I enjoyed moderating the Northeastern State University conference affiliation public forums the past two evenings in Tahlequah and Broken Arrow.  The forums attracted nearly one hundred internal and external NSU constituents.  In fact, our guests extended beyond Oklahoma residents as we had alumni from both Illinois and Missouri take the time and effort to attend the events.  As a reminder, the forums were part of an agreement President Turner and I had to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of NSU’s athletics conference affiliation following five years of membership in the MIAA.

For those who were unable to attend, I feel it is worth sharing my thoughts following the feedback the institution received.  Of course, others who were not in attendance have reached out to express their thoughts and opinions since the forums were announced.

It is more evident today than when I arrived on the job almost six years ago that there is tremendous passion for NSU from Green and White nation.

Many expressed a strong desire to find a conference that provides the opportunity to compete against historical rivalries.  Several rival institutions, both in and out of Oklahoma, were mentioned during the forums.

Many feel it is important to be part of a conference that allows for healthy competition and attracts visiting fans to Tahlequah.  Recent comments made to media by some NSU constituents that imply a conference change will equate to greater success, does not reflect my personal opinion or those employees at the university.  There are no guarantees in intercollegiate athletics.

Every NCAA Division II conference within NSU’s footprint enjoys spirited competition that leads to post-season successes when their institutions qualify to participate in NCAA championship tournaments and playoffs.  I have been involved in college athletics for over twenty-five years, and I can assure you that those sports in our department that have struggled in recent years have work to do to compete at a high level in any D-II athletics conference within our geographic footprint.  That being said, I am thrilled with the RiverHawks coaching staff and know the approach each staff is taking will result in positive outcomes.

Others recognize the importance of identifying a conference where there is a fit both geographically and in resources provided to the athletics program.  The economic realities higher education is experiencing in Oklahoma can’t be ignored, and private support is critical to our institution.  As I mentioned in both forums, NSU Athletics must have greater buy-in from our alumni, fans and surrounding communities in philanthropy, game attendance and general support if we are going to meet our potential.

Finally, it should be noted that no decision has been made by Northeastern State University in relation to our athletics conference affiliation.  If it is determined that finding a new conference home is the direction we choose, there has to be a conference either inviting or accepting NSU into their membership.

I look forward to the on-going evaluation of this important matter.


Tony Duckworth
Director of Athletics
Northeastern State University

Joey McWilliams lives in Durant. He founded and provides the bulk of the content for OklahomaSports.Net. He is a long-time sports journalist, having covered sports via radio, newspaper, television and the Internet since 2000. Joey was the color analyst for the Southeastern Savage Storm football and basketball teams from 2001-2011 and again for football in 2015. He also does play-by-play for Southeastern volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball on radio and streaming Internet video for Mix 96.1 in Durant. He can also be seen on the GAC Sports Network and as the play-by-play announcer on the Showcase Game of the Week high school football broadcast on KSBI in OKC. Joey is an alum of both Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma State University. He completed his second bachelor's degree in 2012, a journalism/broadcasting degree at OSU in sports media. He earned first place in the television sports play-by-play category in the 2012 OAB/OBEA competition. Joey also broadcasts regularly on the NFHS Network and was on ESPN3 for the 2015 Live United Texarkana Bowl and on the call of the 2016 Great American Conference basketball tournaments. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on the Spano and Black Attack on the Sports Byline USA Network. He also coached high school girls' and boys' basketball for seven years and high school football for one season at Victory Life Academy.