SHAWNEE— Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) cleared the final hurdle in its three-year transitional journey to the NCAA Friday with a recommendation of full membership from the NCAA Membership Committee.
As full members, the Bison will be able to participate in conference and NCAA postseason events. OBU’s NCAA membership becomes effective Sept. 1.
“Getting the news that OBU has made it through the NCAA Division II membership process and has been accepted as a full member of the division is both an honor and a great achievement,” said OBU Director of Athletics Robert Davenport.
“This could not have been possible without the hard work and diligence of several people. First, I would like to thank Dr. Whitlock for his vision and leadership to put us on this path. Without his direction we would not have been able to move forward. Secondly, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Steve Fluke has worked tirelessly on this project and without his unending efforts and dedication to his job we would have never been able to put the NCAA Division II compliance pieces together. And third, I would like to thank the entire campus as it took each and every person on campus to buy in to the NCAA Division II process.”
OBU started the process in 2014 after listening to all sides of a debate on whether to pursue membership in the NCAA. OBU opted to journey from its longtime home in the NAIA to become a member of the largest association of college athletics on the planet.
“Our athletics department staff, coaches, and many others on campus, are to be commended for their tireless work and efforts over the past three years, as we completed the transition process,” said David Whitlock, OBU president. ”Our coaches and players have competed well in Division II the past two seasons, and we are excited to see what the future holds. We look forward to continuing the rich tradition of excellence in Bison athletics as we move forward as full members of NCAA Division II.”
The university offices, including the athletic department, were subject to NCAA training and evaluation, which included numerous visits from NCAA vendors and consultants. To move forward in each of the three stages, OBU had to demonstrate compliance with NCAA rules and standards.
In addition to success on the field, OBU, already committed to academic excellence, had to formalize policies to ensure academic success for student-athletes.
OBU won 20 NAIA National Championships and 13 NCCAA national titles, including a sweep of all eight NCCAA crowns this spring. OBU also set a collegiate record, winning four NAIA national championships in one day, sweeping men’s and women’s swimming and diving, as well as men’s and women’s indoor track in 2013.
The Bison took up residence in the Great American Conference (GAC) in the fall of 2015 in most sports, while joining the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in swimming, diving and lacrosse.
“We are excited to have our 12th school eligible for conference and NCAA championships,” said GAC Commissioner Will Prewitt. “Especially when that school owns one of the most storied athletic traditions in small college sports like Oklahoma Baptist.”
OBU has won regular season league titles in men’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s tennis since joining the GAC and will be eligible for postseason participation starting this fall.