Ada — East Central University is now a member of the Great American Conference. ECU joins a nine-member league that includes six NCAA Division II universities from Arkansas and three from Oklahoma.
"We are very excited to be part of the new Great American Conference,” said ECU President John R. Hargrave. "What an appropriate name for a conference that includes universities in Oklahoma and Arkansas. We look forward to competing again with the Arkansas schools we have played in the past, and keeping our rivalries intact with Southeastern and Southwestern Oklahoma State Universities.”
The formal announcement of the new conference name was made today by the chief executive officers of the nine member institutions — ECU, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma and in Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Harding University in Searcy, Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
According to a joint statement from the member institutions’ presidents and chancellors, the name was chosen to "reflect the diversity of the league’s geographic regions, from the Mississippi Delta of southeast Arkansas to the plains of western Oklahoma.”
The six Arkansas schools are currently members of the Gulf South Conference while the Oklahoma schools hold membership in the Lone Star Conference.
Much of the impetus for the new league, according to the CEO’s, was to bring together institutions with similar athletic and academic profiles as well as those in geographic proximity to lessen travel costs and missed class time for student-athletes. The new conference also recalls part of the athletic history of both states when the three Oklahoma schools were part of the now-defunct Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference and the six Arkansas schools were part of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference. Teams from the OIC and AIC were frequent opponents in all sports.
"We’re excited about being a founding member of the Great American Conference and feel this name is an excellent reflection of the member institutions and the student athletes that represent them,” said Brian DeAngelis, ECU athletic director.
Will Prewitt, former associate commissioner of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, was recently named commissioner of the new conference.
"This is an incredible opportunity to build a conference from the ground up,” said Prewitt. "When I look at the member institutions and their respective athletic histories, I think we have a chance to build something special.”
The new league plans to begin competition in the fall of 2011 after approval from the NCAA