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New Year, New Conference

As the new year breaks in Oklahoma Christian athletics, the athletic department is entering a new conference with more teams, more travel and increased competition.

With the move to the Lone Star Conference this season, Oklahoma Christian athletics joins 18 other universities, 14 of them being Texas institutions. The headquarters of the conference are located in Richardson, TX, and the conference championships will be primarily held in Texas.

Athletic Director David Lynn said it will be an all-around positive move for the Oklahoma Christian athletic department.

“We are fortunate to find ourselves in a position to be in such a strong and solidified conference,” Lynn said.

Oklahoma Christian became an NCAA Division II school in 2012 and competed in the Heartland Conference. When Oklahoma Christian joined, the NCAA mandated a rule stating each conference had to have 10 university members by 2020 to remain an official NCAA conference.

In 2012, the Heartland Conference contained 12 schools, and the Lone Star Conference had seven. At the time, the Lone Star originally proposed a merger with the Heartland Conference, where the Heartland would lead and the Lone Star would dissolve. The Heartland Conference presidents declined.

Gradually, the Lone Star Conference began recruiting Heartland schools. Several of the public universities within the Heartland and other conferences went to the Lone Star. As of last year, the Heartland Conference and the Lone Star Conference sat even at nine schools each. To be proactive, the Lone Star invited half of the Heartland schools to secure the 10-school requirement.

As a result, the Heartland Conference opted to move as a whole into the Lone Star Conference, with all schools except Newman University joining the Lone Star.

As far as transition for the athletic department, Lynn said teams will be traveling a lot more throughout the season, which will affect budgets and the overall student-athlete experience.

“The biggest impact, both to the student-athlete experience and to our budgets, will be the sheer amount of travel we have to do,” Lynn said. “The incoming members did not get to vote on any of the schedules. We had an opinion but not a say in what happened. Some sports decided on some schedules that were advantageous for travel. Some of those things will shake out over time, but we’ve got to go through some of those growing pains.”

The Lone Star Conference boasts more teams and more public universities with high undergraduate enrollment, which changes the level of competition.

Lynn said the competition level will be heightened, but Oklahoma Christian can fit in the mix well.

“The Lone Star is extremely competitive in all the sports we compete in,” Lynn said. “Those schools have a large enrollment of students and a lot of resources at their disposal. It’s going to be a very powerful conference. I hope it elevates our level of competition—we coach better, we recruit better and we just play better.”

On the operations side, the Lone Star Conference partnered this summer with BlueFrame Technologies to provide live streaming of all conference matchups.

Oklahoma Christian will stream soccer, basketball, softball and baseball through this platform free of charge. Other schools may opt to stream under a pay-per-view system.

Oklahoma Christian’s Sports Information Director Murray Evans said the fan experience will be positively impacted, allowing more opportunities to watch your favorite Eagles.

“Fans can still click on the link on the front page of the website or on each team’s schedule page to watch the stream, or they can go to the Lone Star Conference website and find the link to the portal page, from which they can access streams from all 19 Lone Star Conference members,” Evans said.

Evans also said his department has moved to a new statistics service for basketball and soccer which will allow teams and fans to access more stats.

“We are making the change from StatCrew—rapidly becoming outdated—to the new NCAA LiveStats programs designed by Genius Sports Group, in partnership with the NCAA,” Evans said. “There are still some hiccups in the Genius program, but it will quickly become the standard in our industry within the next few years. It will provide fans and coaches with a plethora of new stats.”

The men’s soccer team opens up Lone Star Conference play Saturday, Sept. 21, against Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, TX.

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