2007 Texas A and M University-Commerce Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Terry Burnett passed away on Sunday.
Presidents meet to discuss forming new conference
Burnett started his track and field career at East Texas State University as a walk-on, non-scholarship athlete in 1964. Before long, Burnett ran his way into the Lions and Lone Star Conference record books. He holds school records in the 330-yard hurdles (37.6 in 1966) and 440-yard hurdles (52.5 in 1968). Burnett was a member of three relay teams that also set school records: the mile relay team with a time of 3:09.8 in 1967, the sprint medley team with a time of 3:19.4 in 1967 and the mile relay team that set an indoor mile relay record of 3:22.6 in 1967. He holds a Lone Star Conference record in the 330-yard hurdles at 37.6 set in 1966. Burnett was coached by Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor recipient and Lions Hall of Fame coach Delmar Brown and was a four-year letterwinner and team captain in his junior and senior seasons. Burnett helped lead the Lions to their third-straight Lone Star Conference championship in 1967. Following his distinguished career with the Lions, he went on to serve as a member of the Texas A and M University-Commerce Athletic Association.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of Terry. He was a very valuable member to our athletic history and athletic program. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Burnett family and those who lives he has touched," said A and M-Commerce athletic director Carlton Cooper.
Funeral services for Burnett are pending and will be updated here when they become available.
By BRAD KEITH
The process of Oklahoma universities making their exodus from the Lone Star Conference next year continues to churn steadily forward.
The presidents of three universities in Oklahoma and six in Arkansas released a prepared statement saying they met in Russellville, Ark. Friday to discuss possibly defecting from their current leagues to form a new conference.
"The presidents, chancellors and directors of athletics from the University of Arkansas at Monticello, Arkansas Tech University, East Central University, Harding University, Henderson State University, Ouchita Baptist University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southern Arkansas and Southwestern Oklahoma State University held a meeting...to discuss the possibility of forming a new NCAA Division II conference," the statement from all nine presidents said.
The three Oklahoma schools are members of the LSC, and compete in the conference's North Division in sports such as football and basketball. The six Arkansas schools are currently members of the Gulf South Conference.
The statement suggests the meeting marked a positive beginning to the process of forming a new league.
"Our ongoing discussion is producing positive results as we analyze the feasibility of creating a new conference that would reduce the amount of missed class time by our student-athletes and reduce our operating costs," the statement says. "We found during the course of our meeting that we have similar concerns and that we are like-minded in our approach to intercollegiate athletics."
Tarleton State's Lonn Reisman, the longest-tenured athletic director in the LSC, was an assistant basketball coach at Southeastern Oklahoma and has since served Tarleton as head men's basketball coach for 22 years and athletic director for 18. He said in an interview for a story published by the Empire-Tribune on June 25 that he believed several of the LSC North schools would leave the league, citing travel and the renewal of old rivalries between the Arkansas and Oklahoma schools.
Reisman firmly believes the LSC is at the most critical juncture in its 79-year history.
News of the possible defection of the Oklahoma schools from the LSC spread like wildfire throughout June, with officials at Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma admitting they had gone as far as to send letters of interest to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The MIAA recently announced it is looking to expand from 12 to 16 members.
There has also been speculation that Cameron University, the only other LSC member in Oklahoma, is looking into the Heartland Conference. Cameron does not compete in football.
Following news of the Oklahoma schools possibly leaving the league, Eastern New Mexico president Steven Gamble told the Portales News-Tribune that ENMU must also weigh its options.
In a recent ENMU Board of Regents meeting, Gamble said the LSC is "unraveling before our eyes," and the university may soon have to hunt for a new conference to call home, according to the News-Tribune report.
One of Gamble's major concerns, according to the report, is the escalating LSC membership fee. He said schools are considering leaving because of a 233 percent increase in membership fees over the last three years - from $15,000 to $50,000, the report states. Gamble said one option ENMU could study is joining the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, which includes other state schools such as New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico.
Reisman's biggest concerns for Tarleton are scheduling and travel. He said he is unsure that the Oklahoma schools will continue to schedule the Texans and TexAnns if it is not mandated because they are in the same league.
All schools involved in the potential realignment will remain with their current leagues throughout the 2010-11 academic year. The dominoes could begin to fall quickly, however, as LSC members are required to notify conference officials by Aug. 1 if they plan to leave the league the following year.
Reisman led Tarleton's athletic program through a move from the NAIA to NCAA Division II and the LSC in 1994.
ENMU joined the LSC in 1984 and is moving this fall from the South Division to the North. Central Oklahoma joined in 1987 and Cameron in 1988. East Central, Northeastern, Southeastern and Southwestern all joined the league in 1995, and Cameron - after a short defection - rejoined in 1996.
The LSC also includes Abilene Christian University, Angelo State University, Midwestern State University, Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas A&M-Kingsville, Texas Woman's University and West Texas A&M University. University of the Incarnate Word is the league's newest addition. UIW will begin LSC competition this fall.
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