ORU's new league adds new member
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Monday, August 20, 2012
Oral Roberts University’s new league -- the Southland Conference -- is adding a up-and-coming new member from a major market.
It was announced Monday that Incarnate Word, located in San Antonio, will become a Southland member effective July 1, 2013.
Incarnate Word is currently a member of the Lone Star Conference in NCAA Division II, but the university will begin a four-year transition to Division I with the Southland Conference’s assistance and oversight, according to a release from the league’s media relations office.
The release stated that it is expected that, for scheduling purposes, Incarnate Word will “count” as a Division I team during the 2014-15 academic year and the school will be fully eligible for NCAA championship events in 2017-18.
Commissioner Tom Burnett said Southland presidents have studied membership additions and the impact of Division I conference realignments for two years. He said the conference was only interested in adding insitutions that clearly bring added value to the league in terms of academics, athletics, facilities, geography, fan support media market size and presence in the market.
“UIW is a historic and accomplished institution and has the potential and resources to be a competitively successful member of the Southland Conference and NCAA Division I,” Burnett said.
The Southland made site visits to three potential new members -- Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian and New Orleans -- prior to the announcement. The Incarnate Word verdict does not mean the league is done expanding.
“The Southland remains active in its discussions with other universities that we have been engaged with in recent months,” Burnett said. “We expect resolution on these membership options in the near future.”
Incarnate Word’s enrollment (9,000-plus) will be at an all-time high this fall. UIW is the fourth-largest private institution in Texas, the largest Catholic university in the state and the largest private Hispanic-serving university in Texas. According to the Southland release, projections have UIW becoming the largest private institution in Texas by 2020.