Southwestern Oklahoma joining new league called Great American Conference
Justin Tinder, SWOSU Sports Information Director
Russellville, Ark - Southwestern Oklahoma State University, along with eight other institutions in Arkansas and Oklahoma, have been working together on a new athletic league, and the league now has a name—the Great American Conference.
SWOSU will join the GAC in 2011, a league that includes six NCAA Division II universities from Arkansas and three from Oklahoma.
The formal announcement of the new conference name was made today by the chief executive officers of the nine member institutions –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, Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, 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.
SWOSU president Randy Beutler, who is also vice president of the new conference, called the new league a better fit for the institutions.
“The Great American Conference brings together like-minded universities with similar resources and places an emphasis on the student-athlete which will enhance intercollegiate athletics at our member institutions,” Beutler said.
Will Prewitt, former associate commissioner of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, was recently 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.
SWOSU Athletic Director Todd Thurman indicated that coming up with the conference’s actual name is an important milestone in the continuing development.
“The name ‘Great American Conference’ best reflects the makeup of our new league and our vision for the future. The brand also affords us the opportunity to make a bold statement about who we are and where we are going with our newly-formed athletic conference. We are excited about all the possibilities this new endeavor provides for us, our students and our colleagues.”