ABILENE - After more than two years of a thorough evaluation of its athletic program and the impact of conference alignment across the intercollegiate landscape, ACU administrators were informed that the Southland Conference will be on campus this summer for an official site visit.
Southland Conference presidents met Wednesday and voted to make campus visits to ACU, Incarnate Word in San Antonio and the University of New Orleans as they seek to replace three schools which recently left the league. The SLC has already added Oral Roberts and Houston Baptist, but it's unknown how many - if any - of the three visited campuses will be extended invitations to join the league.
"I received a phone call late Wednesday afternoon from Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett, informing me of the league presidents' desire to make a campus visit to three universities, including ACU," ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert said. "This is the next step in our process of exploring options in terms of NCAA affiliation and in determining what is best for Abilene Christian. We have not received an invitation to join the Southland Conference and haven't been told one is forthcoming. We look forward to showing our campus to the search committee, and to the discussions that will take place when committee members are in Abilene."
ACU began this process in April 2010 and school officials have had several on-campus forums for faculty and staff to discuss findings from its research, and have met face-to-face with several key donors across the country in regards to a possible change in affiliation.
Last January, Schubert, ACU vice president of advancement Phil Boone and director of athletics Jared Mosley met with Southland Conference officials in Frisco for discussions regarding ACU's status and readiness to make a move to NCAA Division I status.
At that time, ACU officials were told a decision by presidents could be made in early March at the league's post-season basketball tournament in Katy. However, no decision on campus visits or expansion was made at the tournament, and the discussion about adding new members was tabled until May 23.
"The Board of Directors has spent a considerable amount of time since last summer reviewing all possible membership options available to the conference," league commissioner Tom Burnett said. "It's been a deliberate, thoughtful exercise that has allowed the board to consider what's best for the long-term viability of the association, not just a quick fix. The presidents were very clear in expressing their interest in learning more about these institutions, and they look forward to these visits."
A move to the Southland Conference would be almost like a move "home" for ACU, which was a founding member of the league in 1963. ACU remained in the league until after the conclusion of the 1972-73 athletic year before re-classifying to NAIA Division I status and joining the Lone Star Conference.
"We are pleased to take the next step in our NCAA affiliation discussion. I'm looking forward in the next few weeks to the Southland Conference search committee getting a close-up look at our great university," Mosley said. "While we are excited about this news, we also look forward to the upcoming 2012-13 season in the Lone Star Conference and NCAA Division II."
The Southland Conference is losing three members on July 1, 2012, with the University of Texas-Arlington, the University of Texas-San Antonio and Texas State heading to the Western Athletics Conference. In July 2013, UTA and Texas State will join the Sun Belt Conference and UTSA will join Conference USA.
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