OAKLAND CITY, Ind. (WFIE) -The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has announced the approval of five institutions for membership, which will be effective July 1, 2020. Formal approval was voted upon by the NAIA Council of Presidents (COP) on March 31 at the annual NAIA COP Business Meeting.
New members include: Oakland City University (Oakland City, IN), Park University Gilbert (Gilbert, AZ), Texas A&M University-San Antonio (San Antonio, TX), University of North Texas at Dallas (Dallas, TX) and Westcliff University (Irvine, CA).
“The NAIA is excited to welcome these five schools into our association,” said Jim Carr, NAIA President and CEO. “Each of these institutions exemplifies the NAIA’s core values and will undoubtedly make great additions to their respective conferences, as well as the organization overall.”
Oakland City University will be returning to the NAIA from NCAA Division II, becoming the sixth school to move from the NCAA in the past five years. The Mighty Oaks will be immediately eligible for postseason competition, which is a benefit afforded to former members that return to the NAIA. With 14 sports, Oakland City boasts the largest athletics department among the newcomers.
“We are extremely excited to announce the full Approval from the NAIA,” stated OCU Athletic Director T-Ray Fletcher. “Oakland City will compete in The River States Conference. This move gives our department a new direction that will impact our campus in a very positive way. We will begin competing in the fall of 2020. Our entire athletic department is excited about the new challenges and potential rivalries that will develop. It is a perfect fit for our core values both on and off the fields of play.”
The Mighty Oaks have been approved for membership in the River States Conference, joining the other conference member institutions Alice Lloyd College (Pippa Passes, KY), Asbury University (Wilmore, KY), Brescia University (Owensboro, KY), Carlow University (Pittsburg, PA), Indiana University East (Richmond, IN), Indiana University Kokomo (Kokomo, IN), Indiana University Southeast (New Albany, IN), Midway University (Midway, KY), Ohio Christian University (Circleville, OH), Point Park University (Pittsburg, PA), University of Rio Grande (Rio Grande, OH), and West Virginia University Institute of Technology (Montgomery, WV).Oakland City University participated in the precursor of the River States Conference, known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 1968-75. Founded in 1916, the KIAC rebranded in the summer of 2016 and changed its name to the River States Conference.
“The River States Conference is delighted to see Oakland City University return to the NAIA and the conference,” said Michael Schell, RSC Commissioner. “They have been great to work with through the application process, and I look forward to seeing them compete this fall.”
“Oakland City University is excited to return to the NAIA and especially the River States Conference,” said Dr. Ron Dempsey, President of OCU. “The institutions in the RSC will provide our intercollegiate Mighty Oaks tremendous competition, and we are looking forward to developing some intra-conference rivalries. As president, I am proud that OCU is able to associate with the NAIA and compete with such a stellar group of colleges and universities in the River State Conference.”
The Mighty Oaks sponsor 14 sports teams, competing in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball. Oakland City also has a co-ed cheerleading team. Oakland City will participate in 13 of the 17 RSC Championship sports with the only exceptions being men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field which OCU hopes to add by 2021.Oakland City University brings the RSC membership back to 13 institutions. The Mighty Oaks increase the conference’s membership to four schools within the state of Indiana. The RSC membership, which is spread across five states, now includes four schools in Kentucky, four in Indiana, two in Ohio, two in Pennsylvania, and one in West Virginia.
The addition of Oakland City University increases NAIA national tournament automatic bids for the RSC in several sports. Baseball and softball return to having two automatic bids with OCU being the 10th team in each of those sports. Likewise, RSC men’s and women’s cross country and volleyball move back to two automatic qualifications with the Mighty Oaks being the 12th sponsored team in those areas.
Oakland City’s membership gives the RSC 13 men’s and women’s basketball teams, 11 women’s soccer teams, 10 men’s soccer teams, nine women’s tennis teams, seven men’s tennis teams, 10 women’s golf teams and 11 men’s golf teams.
Courtesy: OCU Athletics