Incarnate Word added to Southland Conference, Abilene Christian could be next
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
8/21/12 at 3:53 AM
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Oral Roberts University’s new league -- the Southland Conference -- is adding a new member from a major market and another new member could soon be announced.
It was announced Monday that Incarnate Word, located in San Antonio, will become a Southland member effective July 1, 2013.
Meanwhile, Abilene Christian announced Monday that it has received an invitation to join the league and shift to Division I affiliation in all sports.
Abilene Christian’s board of trustees and administration will discuss the Southland invitation during a regular scheduled board meeting this week. If ACU accepts, an announcement will come during a Saturday press conference.
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, according to a release from the Southland Conference.
The release, which dealt only with the Incarnate Word verdict, said it is expected that, for scheduling purposes, UIW 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 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 making the UIW announcement.
“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.
Original Print Headline: Southland Conference adds Incarnate Word to lineup
Jimmie Tramel 918 581-8389
Tom Burnett: He said the conference wanted to bring value to the league.