FRISCO, Texas — The Southland Conference announced Oral Roberts University as the newest member of the NCAA Division I league Tuesday.
The Tulsa, Okla.-based university will become the 10th member of the Southland on July 1, 2012, and will begin competing for conference championships in the 2012-13 academic year.
The ORU Golden Eagles will participate in 15 of the Southland's 17 sponsored championships, including men's sports basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field. On the women's side, ORU will compete in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.
"Our number one consideration in this and all decisions is the well-being of our student-athletes. We look forward to being a competitive member of such an excellent conference right here in our own neighborhood," Mark Rutland, the ORU president, said. "This change in geography that the Southland Conference provides us will greatly benefit our athletes."
"The Southland Conference presidents have studied the possibilities of membership addition in the past few months," added Southland commissioner Tom Burnett. "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 the first Oklahoma-based institution in the Southland's 48-year history, and will be the league's first private institution since charter members Trinity University and Abilene Christian University departed the conference in early 1970s. Tulsa is the nation's 46th largest city with a population of 391,906, and the greater metropolitan area includes approximately one million people. The area is also the 59th largest television market in the United States.
Currently a member of the Summit League, the Golden Eagle program has set a strong competitive standard since joining the conference in 1997. ORU has won nine Summit League Commissioner's Cups in 14 years, and the Golden Eagles have totaled 75 NCAA tournament appearances in that time. The athletic program has had 68 All-America selections since 1998, as well as an indoor and outdoor track national champion and two Olympians.