The Great American Conference has been around since 2011. Since its founding, three teams have joined: Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Southern Nazarene University in 2012 and Oklahoma Baptist University in 2015. The conference also has two affiliate schools, Oklahoma Christian and Rogers State University.
The GAC represents the conjoining of two different conferences, originally the Lone Star Conference and the Gulf South Conference. With schools located in Oklahoma and Arkansas, there was limited traveling between the schools. The purpose of forming the GAC was to reduce cost of travel for the universities. The cuts made to education in Oklahoma schools have played a role in shaping the conference.
That being said, athletes want to enjoy their experiences as much as possible when competing in collegiate sports and a part of this includes traveling. It can be mundane to travel to the same places all the time, especially if you don’t have more “exotic” places to travel. How much money goes into the total budget for sports plays a significant role in how much funding each individual sport receives.
Men’s tennis now has four teams within the conference . Because of having limited funds and travel, this equals limited opportunities in some ways. It is not really an accomplishment to win a conference when there are only three other teams in it.
The competition needs to be increased by the number of teams within the conference. If budget cuts keep getting made to the universities, their sports will start to be affected more, and this will then affect the conference. The Central Region is composed of the GAC, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) conference.
The GAC, compared to schools in the Central Region, has 16 sports fielded with eight men’s and eight women’s, and 12 different schools. The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference has 18 sports fielded with eight men’s and 10 women’s, with 16 different schools. The MIAA consists of 19 sports fielded with nine men’s and nine women’s, with 14 different schools.
In addition to this, the NSIC has schools in five states and the MIAA has schools in four states. The GAC needs to expand if they want more success regionally. The way the GAC is structured is conducive to success within the conference, but, compared to other schools regionally, it is difficult for them to compete.
One way the GAC could expand would be to include other schools in Oklahoma and Arkansas and potentially Louisiana and Texas. This would provide a way to travel and offer more avenues for competition.
However, Louisiana does not currently have any Division II schools. This then poses the question of whether or not we should redo other conferences to accommodate the whole system.
At the end of the day, yes, conferences should be bigger and have enough teams to compete at a high level. In order for this to be fair, all conferences would need to be redone in some form or fashion.