LANGSTON - Langston University will become the Sooner Athletic Conference's newest member as the NAIA league grows to 13 full-time members for the 2018-19 seasons. The move was announced Saturday at LU's Homecoming football game after being approved earlier this fall by SAC Presidents and the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents.
Langston – Oklahoma's only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) – competes in eight varsity sports: football, volleyball, women's cross country, men's and women's basketball, softball, and men's and women's track and field.
"We are pleased to welcome President Kent Smith and the entire Langston University community into the Sooner Athletic Conference," SAC Commissioner Stan Wagnon said. "Langston really fits nicely with our vision to grow the SAC and stood out as a great choice due to its administrative support and commitment, athletic success and competitiveness, as well as the geographic proximity to our other members."
Langston – located in Langston, Okla. – has competed in the Red River Athletic Conference since 1998 when the league was formed. LU now figures to realize significant savings in travel time and expenses. Langston teams currently travel 425 one-way miles on average to face RRAC foes, whereas the Lions' and Lady Lions' average trip to SAC campuses will be 165 miles.
"Historically, the SAC has been recognized as the premier conference in the NAIA and we're excited to compete day in and day out with some of the premier NAIA institutions in the country," LU President Dr. Kent Smith said. "Langston University has a long and rich history of academic and athletic excellence and I firmly believe we're a perfect and natural fit for the Sooner Athletic Conference."
Langston athletic director Donnita Rogers echoed her excitement about joining the SAC.
"The SAC is arguably the most competitive conference in the NAIA with almost 100 national titles to its credit. The Lions will be competing against the highest level of competition, day in and day out while playing the majority of their games within a 2 ½ hour radius of home."
Langston's earliest conference affiliation was with the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), where the Lions won HBCU National Championships in football in 1939 and 1941 and again in men's basketball in 1944 and 1946. Since then, the Lions have won conference championships in men and women's basketball, football and track & field in various conferences over the last six decades.
Langston joins Bacone (Okla.), John Brown (Ark.), Mid-America Christian (Okla.), Oklahoma City, Southwestern Christian (Okla.), Science and Arts (Okla.), Oklahoma Panhandle, Central Christian (Kan.), Southwest Assemblies of God (Texas), St. Gregory's (Okla.), Texas Wesleyan and Wayland Baptist (Texas) to make up the 2018-19 conference.
SAC Presidents voted unanimously last week to approve associate memberships in football for Arizona Christian University, Lyon (Ark.) College, Ottawa University Arizona and Texas College. With those four in the fold, the SAC will have 10 football teams when conference play begins next fall.
After having just three full-time members (Bacone, Southwestern Assemblies of God and Wayland Baptist) with football a year ago, the SAC will see that number double by next fall when Langston joins. Oklahoma Panhandle State joined the membership this fall, and Texas Wesleyan revived its program this season after a 74-year hiatus.
SAC football teams will play a 9-game conference schedule, with the conference champion determined by winning percentage in those games. The league will provide weekly player recognition, as well as year-end athletic and academic achievement awards.
The SAC will be one of eight NAIA conferences to sponsor football, and the SAC champion will receive a berth in the 16-team NAIA National Championship Series if rated in the Top 20.
The SAC participates in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and currently sponsors 14 championship sports. SAC teams have won 94 NAIA National Championships, the most of any NAIA conference.