TULSA, Okla.-Oral Roberts University has announced that it will join the Southland Conference, effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all applicable sports for the 2012-13 academic year.
"Our number one consideration in this and all decisions is the well being of our student-athletes," said ORU President Dr. Mark Rutland. "We look forward to being a competitive member of such an excellent conference right here in our own neighborhood. This change in geography that the Southland Conference provides us will greatly benefit our athletes."
The addition of ORU increases the membership in the Southland Conference to 10 teams, including: Central Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Lamar, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Northwestern State (La.), McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State.
"The Southland Conference has proven that it is a strong and historic mid-major conference, and we are excited about competing in the league," said ORU Athletics Director Mike Carter. "The geographical footprint of the Southland will help us in recruiting, both for athletics and for the university."
Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett had this to say about ORU: "The Southland Conference presidents have studied the possibilities of membership addition in the past few months. From the beginning of the process, the Board has only shown interest in institutions that clearly bring added value to the league. That includes strong academic performance, athletic competitiveness and achievement, excellent playing facilities, geographic fit, media market size and presence in the market, and strong fan support. ORU excels in all of these categories, and this was evident as we began studying potential members."
ORU will be leaving the Summit League, where the Golden Eagles have competed since the 1997-98 academic year. The Golden Eagles have finished first or second in the Summit League Commissioner's Cup in 12 of the last 14 seasons, and have won 134 regular-season and tournament championships. During that time, ORU has produced 68 All-Americans, and made 75 NCAA Tournament appearances.
"We are grateful to the Summit League for many wonderful years of competition and camaraderie, but made this decision in the best interest of the University and the Student-Athletes we serve," said Carter.