The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 24, 2010

Four schools involved in MIAA expansion talks

By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor

— Expansion talk has surfaced again in the MIAA, and membership could rise to 16 teams.

During the NCAA Division II presidents meeting last week in Indianapolis, MIAA presidents met and — by an 8-3 vote with one abstention — decided to pursue expanding the league to 16 teams. Current membership is 12 teams with Lincoln’s return this year, but Lincoln won’t play a conference football schedule until 2012.

Published reports in Oklahoma City say Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., and Central Oklahoma in Edmond are leaving the Lone Star Conference to join the MIAA. The exits could occur as soon as the 2011-12 school year because they have to give the conference a year’s notice before they can leave.

Central Oklahoma athletics director Joe Muller issued a statement to the Web site on Wednesday about the school sending a letter of interest to the MIAA.

“The University of Central Oklahoma has submitted a letter of interest to the commissioner of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in an effort to learn more about the conference and its member institutions,” the statement read.

“The dialogue that will occur over the next few weeks will give UCO and the MIAA opportunity to determine what is in the best interest of both parties moving forward. Given the shifts in conference alignment in the NCAA recently, it’s important that we continue to explore opportunities which are best for UCO both academically and athletically.”

Lindenwood University in St. Charles and Nebraska-Kearney are the other two schools in expansion talks. Should Nebraska-Kearney join the league, that would leave Wayne State (Neb.) as the only former Central States Intercollegiate Conference member not in the MIAA.

Several of Missouri Southern’s teams already play Northeastern State, and a few face Central Oklahoma.

Those road trips are 121 and 211 miles, respectively, one way.

Longer journeys would take the Lions to Lindenwood (288 miles) and Kearney (487).

Attempts to reach Missouri Southern President Bruce Speck on Thursday were unsuccessful.

More Division II conference talk involves the Gulf South Conference, which has schools from Georgia to western Arkansas.

Published reports say the six Arkansas schools in the Gulf South — Arkansas Tech, Southern Arkansas, Harding, Ouachita Baptist, Arkansas-Monticello and Henderson State — are considering forming a new conference with three Oklahoma schools now in the Lone Star — East Central, Southwestern Oklahoma State and Southeastern Oklahoma State.

Those departures would leave Cameron as the lone Oklahoma school in the Lone Star, and it would leave the Gulf South with only five football-playing schools.