Monday, July 19, 2010

LSC Scoop Afternoon Update 7-19

Move makes good sense (and dollars) for ECU athletics
Bob Forrest
Ada Evening News

Ada — When East Central University officials announced last week that the school was ending its association with the Lone Star Conference after the 2010-2011 school year, the entire Tiger Nation seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. ECU, which has never won an overall title in any sport since joining the league almost 15 years ago, could finally awaken from its long LSC nightmare.

Being one of the have-nots — in fact the only true have-not — in one of the nation’s most competitive D-II leagues had grated on the ECU faithful for years. Many questioned why their school had left the NAIA, where the Tiger football team had claimed the 1993 national title, to become a perennial whipping boy for a group of Texas schools with resources far beyond anything ECU could ever hope to match.

So when fellow LSC North members UCO and Northeastern announced earlier this month that they were considering jumping ship and joining the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, ECU and the Lone Star’s other two remaining Oklahoma schools — Southwestern and old rival Southeastern — saw their opportunity and began to plan their own exit strategy.

And last week, they made it official, notifying the NCAA of their plan to join six Arkansas schools in a new conference — one without the prestige of the LSC but one in which all schools are pretty much created equal.

“We have nothing but the highest regard for the Lone Star Conference — it wasn’t about them, it was about us,” second-year ECU president John Hargrave said after the historic move was announced. “We believe this new direction is going to change the face of athletics at East Central and the success of our athletic department for years to come.

“This decision wasn’t taken lightly, he added. “We were competing with schools in Texas whose football budgets are bigger than our entire athletic budget. Asking our coaches to be competitive with those handcuffs on them wasn’t what was in the best interest of our university and our athletic program.”

Faith and Football: Jonathan Haggerty Catching Eyes in NFL (with video)
Stephany Speck

WEATHERFORD, Oklahoma -- The distant ring of church bells was drowned out by the yells of encouragement coming from Jonathan Haggerty’s strength coach, Josh Musick. The newly-signed Cleveland Browns wide receiver returned to his alma mater during his time off of summer workouts with his new team.

Haggerty, who was running countless drills on the field of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, was dripping in sweat and downing water every chance he got. The temperatures easily reached into the high 90s, but the receiver wasn’t quite finished with his workout.

Haggerty graduated from SWOSU in the spring of 2010 and had always had the dream of going pro. Coming from a Division II school in western Oklahoma made it difficult though. His alma mater hadn’t produced many NFL players--only one prior to “J-Hagg,” as his friends call him.

“I would look on the screen and see my favorite athletes and think, ‘Wow, I want to do that,’” Haggerty said.

The Dallas native wasn’t provided many opportunities early on to reach that goal, but he took advantage of his resources while in Weatherford. Musick trained him in the weight room, he worked hard on Saturday nights for the Bulldogs and he chose to use his free time to perfect his game--and set an example for his team.

“While everyone else is out doing their own thing, he’s out running his routes on a Thursday night, getting ready for the ball game on Saturday,” said assistant athletic director Rouben Tourian.

It’s that work ethic that earned J-Hagg looks from the NFL, following his senior year with SWOSU.

Mosley looking forward to better days ahead for LSC
ACU Athletics Media Relations

ABILENE -- The long-awaited breakup of the Lone Star Conference has begun, but contrary to some reports and the thoughts and opinions of some fans and onlookers it's not the end of the venerable conference.

With the recent announcement that East Central University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University are leaving the league at the end of the 2011-12 year, along with the possible departure of both Northeastern State University and the University of Central Oklahoma, it might appear as if troubling days await the 79-year-old league. But nothing could be further from the truth, according to ACU director of athletics Jared Mosley.

Mosley instead sees the impending departure of those five schools as a "major opportunity" for the remaining schools in the LSC.

"Over the last several years, there has been a growing desire by a majority of the membership to invest additional resources and time in increasing the visibility, quality and national reputation of the Lone Star Conference in our desire to be the premier conference in all of Division II," Mosley said. "Every institution must look at their options regarding conference affiliation and the impact that it can have on competitiveness, funding, geography, etc., and make decisions that are in their best interest."

East Central, Southeastern Oklahoma and Southwestern Oklahoma are reportedly set to join Arkansas Tech, Southern Arkansas, Arkansas-Monticello, Henderson State, Harding and Ouachita Baptist in an as-of-yet unnamed league that would begin play in August 2012.

UCO and Northeastern are both eyeing membership into the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) as are Lindenwood (Mo.) and the University of Nebraska-Kearney. With Lincoln (Mo.) set to return to the MIAA this year, the addition of those four schools to the league would make the MIAA at 16-team league.

If the five schools leave, the LSC will be left with 11 schools — nine in Texas, one in New Mexico and one in Oklahoma. Nine of the remaining schools play football, with Texas Woman’s University and Cameron University the two that don’t have football.

Other published reports have ENMU looking at its options — possibly a move to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference — while Cameron is reportedly considering a move of its own to the Heartland Conference, a league that doesn't offer football.

In some quarters a stripped-down Lone Star Conference has been left for dead, but a closer look at the numbers reveals that the league could be stronger moving forward.

Since 2000 the league has awarded 158 league championships and only 32 of those have gone to the five schools who have either announced they are leaving or have applied for membership in another conference. Northeastern State has won 15 titles and UCO 14 since 2000, while Southeastern Oklahoma State has three titles, but none since a 2003 baseball championship.

Of those 32 championships won by the defecting schools, 13 have come in either men's or women's golf. They've combined to win just five titles in the so-called "major sports" of football, men's and women's basketball and baseball. East Central has never won an LSC title, while Southwestern Oklahoma State has just one, a 1997 men's golf championship.

Cameron has five LSC championships since 2000, while Eastern New Mexico hasn't won a title in the 21st Century and Texas Woman's has never won an LSC championship.

Meanwhile, the programs that have been the league's lynchpins since 2000 – Abilene Christian, West Texas A&M and Midwestern State – have combined to win 103 league championships with ACU taking home 57 league championships, followed by 26 for West Texas A&M and 20 for Midwestern State.

And with those schools still on board – as well as Angelo State, Texas A&M-Kingsville, Tarleton State and charter member Texas A&M-Commerce – the league can step up plans to aggressively market the conference through increased membership fees, which will in turn give the league a chance to make a run at a regional television deal among other ventures.

"The departure of several institutions from the LSC allows everyone involved to seek athletic affiliations that best fit their institutions," Mosley said. "I know that those of us at ACU are very excited about the possibilities that await those of us still committed to the LSC and believe we can now move forward with a solid group of like-minded institutions. We are now in a position to initiate some new and exciting strategies and untapped potential that currently lies in each of the markets represented within the LSC."

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico