Five of the six Oklahoma-based schools in the Lone Star Conference say they plan to withdraw membership from the LSC and head to other conferences.
The announcements came in two waves. The first schools to send notification to LSC Commissioner Stan Wagnon, were East Central, Southeastern Oklahoma State and Southwestern Oklahoma State, which made their withdrawal formal in early July. Some believe all three institutions are working with other schools, rumored to be in Arkansas, to form a new Division II conference.
Later in July, just two days before the LSC’s deadline to announce membership withdrawal, Central Oklahoma and Northeastern Oklahoma submitted intent to withdraw from the league. Both schools have received formal invitations from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association to join the conference. Cameron State will remain the only Oklahoma school in the conference.
Although all five institutions have withdrawn from the league, they will not be released from membership until June 30, 2012, according to a statement released by Wagnon.
Not only are the schools denied release from membership until 2012, each school must continue to play all LSC scheduled games until that date.
“Withdrawing members are obligated to play all approved LSC athletic competitions with other members up to the effective withdrawal date.” Wagnon statement read. “In the event of inability or refusal to meet those obligations, the withdrawing member(s) shall pay a financial penalty, unless such competitions are waived or modified by written consent of the parties affected.”
This represents the largest change in the conference landscape since 1995 when the LSC accepted four of the five Oklahoma schools now withdrawing.
ACU Athletic Director Jared Mosley is not concerned with the planned departures.
“I feel we have a strong conference coming out of this, and we have the opportunity to invest in some things that we couldn’t otherwise,” said Mosley.
Mosley also said the schools left in the LSC are very solid from top to bottom.
“The quality of the schools remaining is great, and that will only enhance the strength of this conference.” Mosley said.
Of the 88 LSC championships handed out in the five major sports, football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, and softball, only 17 have been won by one of the five schools leaving since the 1995 expansion, eight of those by Central Oklahoma. C
The departure of the five teams leaves the conference with just 11 teams, only nine in football, which presents a difficulty for scheduling future games. Because of the relatively small number of schools participating in football, each school will have three “open” dates – dates in which programs are free to schedule any opponent. One of those dates will be at the end of season, and Mosley said it is a very difficult week to fill.
“Finding games in the last week of the season is very difficult,” Mosley said. “That will be a challenge, but I think there are things that we will be able to do to alleviate that moving forward with some alliances with other conferences that have similar numbers.”