ORU Becomes Official Member of Southland Conference
For the past 15 years, Oral Roberts University's 16 NCAA Division I teams have competed in The Summit League, claiming an incredible 140 regular season and tournament championships, and nine Commissioner's Cups. That averages out to more than nine championships per year.
With all of the success-on and off the field-in The Summit League, the only thing missing for ORU was a geographical fit. With 10 teams spanning eight states and three time zones, The Summit League is one of the widest-spread conferences in the NCAA. In October 2011, ORU President Dr. Mark Rutland and Director of Athletics Mike Carter announced that the Golden Eagles would pursue another opportunity and join the Southland Conference, effective July 1, 2012. With the addition of ORU, the Southland Conference will have 10 teams in four states (Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma).
"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 Carter. "The geographical footprint of the Southland will help us in recruiting, both for athletics and for the university."
Rutland added: "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. This change in geography that the Southland Conference provides us will greatly benefit our athletes."
Two ORU programs completed their respective tenures in The Summit League having never lost the championship. Both women's golf and baseball captured all 15 tournament championships, marking two of the most impressive streaks in NCAA history. The women's golf run is the longest in NCAA history, surpassing Duke's run of 13 consecutive championships, while the baseball streak is one short of Oklahoma State's record 16-straight Big 8 Tournament championships.
The ORU baseball team will likely see the biggest change in competition with the move. The Summit League has never had more than one team in the NCAA Baseball Tournament, while the Southland had a pair of teams earn bids in 2012, with a third being considered as one of the top teams left out.
In 2011-12, ORU won three regular season championships (men's basketball, women's tennis and baseball), and three tournament championships (women's golf, women's tennis and baseball), and finished second in the Commissioner's Cup, winning the Dr. William Steinbrecher Men's All-Sports Award. Additionally, the Golden Eagles were the only school to finish in the top two in the men's all-sports award, the Dr. Helen Smiley Women's All-Sports Award and the overall Commissioner's Cup standings.
With seven All-Americans and one National Champion this year, ORU has now produced 75 All-Americans and three National Champions during its time in The Summit League. Dominque Morrison earned AP Honorable Mention All-American honors, the first men's basketball player to do so for ORU since Caleb Green in 2007, while Kevi Luper was again named an All-American for the women's basketball team. On the baseball diamond, Jose Trevino was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and long jumper Clive Chafausipo and pole vaulter Jack Whitt each earned NCAA and USTFCCCA All-American honors in their respective sports in both indoor and outdoor track, with Whitt winning the outdoor national championship.
At the conference level, a total of 14 Golden Eagles were given top awards from the Summit League. Scott Sutton (men's basketball) and Chris Milliron (women's tennis) earned 2012 Coach of the Year honors, while Morrison (men's basketball), Luper (women's basketball), Jared Schlehuber (baseball) and Iryna Khatsko (women's tennis) were named the Player of the Year in their respective sports. Other honors included: Bruna Silva as the volleyball Defensive Player of the Year, Steven Roundtree (men's basketball) as Sixth Man of the Year, Drew Bowen (baseball) as the Pitcher of the Year and Tournament MVP, Trevino (baseball) as Newcomer of the Year, Scott Newell (men's golf) as Newcomer of the Championship, and track athletes Whitt and Kristen Radcliff as Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year and Women's Track MVP, respectively. Additionally, Morrison and Whitt were each named Summit League Athlete of the Month during 2011-12.
With those, the Golden Eagles finish their time in the Summit League with 126 Player of the Year, 73 Coach of the Year and 47 Newcomer of the Year trophies.
Athletic Director Mike Carter also earned Under Armour Central Division I A.D. of the Year honors from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
For their work in the classroom, ORU has had 1,244 athletes named to the Academic All-Conference teams, and have posted a GPA of 3.00 or better in 14 of the last 15 years, including a 3.15 mark during 2011-12, the highest over that span. In fact, after reaching 3.00 for the fourth year in a row in 2006-07, the overall GPA has risen in each of the last five years.
As the Golden Eagles begin to eye the Southland Commissioner's Cup, they will have to take down Stephen F. Austin, which won last year's honor after winning regular season championships in women's soccer, women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and women's tennis.
Although they become part of the conference on July 1, Southland Conference competition will officially begin on Thursday, September 13 as the ORU volleyball team faces Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas.