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Last September, this news story from the McAlester News-Capital caught my eye. Lawmakers in Oklahoma held a hearing to consider the idea of forcing all 11 of the DII schools in the state to combine in a new, Oklahoma-only conference. Currently, Oklahoma institutions compete in the Lone Star, MAIAA and Great American Conference, leagues that include schools in Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and other states.
Athletic leaders weren't thrilled with the idea. Via the story:
But athletic experts warned lawmakers that it’s not clear whether the NCAA, whose future is already uncertain, would grant permission to form a new conference, even if Oklahoma lawmakers passed legislation demanding one. They said schools would face at least $10,000 each in startup costs, would have to pay exit fees from their current conferences and be denied an automatic qualification for postseason play for five years.
And, such a move would hamper recruiting efforts, particularly for students who live in other states. Student-athletes enjoy traveling to other states, they said.
It would also make it difficult for the schools that play football to schedule games because there are just eight Division 2 football schools in Oklahoma. Schools must play at minimum 10 to have a chance at the football championship.
I asked around back when this was published, and the general gist I heard from folks in D-II and around Texas was that the hearing was more of a pet project of a few lawmakers, and there wasn't a meaningful push in or around the state to actually make this idea a reality.
But the idea of creating a state-specific conference isn't just on the minds of a few Oklahoma state lawmakers. And I suspect there's a real chance it could become even more popular in the coming years.