Oral Roberts leaving Summit League; NDSU’s OK with itFARGO — The Summit League trip sometimes consisted of flying to Minneapolis, Memphis and Tulsa. Starting next year, North Dakota State will not have to make those connections on its way to Oral Roberts University.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — The Summit League trip sometimes consisted of flying to Minneapolis, Memphis and Tulsa. Starting next year, North Dakota State will not have to make those connections on its way to Oral Roberts University.
The Tulsa-based school announced Tuesday that it will join the Southland Conference next year. It will pay a $250,000 buyout to the Summit.
It’s a loss in stature for the Summit; the Eagles were a well-known program in men’s basketball and baseball.
“Our fans get into the Oral Roberts game and we’ll miss them from that perspective,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor.
But it’s a geographical win-win for almost all involved. ORU cited the proximity of the Southland schools as its principle reason for leaving the Summit, where it had been a member for 15 years.
With Centenary College (La.) and Southern Utah having already left the league, the Summit footprint is tighter than ever.
“The more our league becomes regional, the better served we’ll all be,” said NDSU women’s basketball coach Carolyn DeHoff.
Summit commissioner Tom Douple said in a statement he was not surprised ORU left and said the outlook for the league remains positive. South Dakota State President David Chicoine, the chair of the league’s Presidents Council, also said in a statement the conference anticipated ORU’s departure after three Southland schools moved to the Western Athletic Conference
With the addition of the University of South Dakota this year and Nebraska-Omaha next year, the Summit will be at nine teams for most sports. Taylor, in Chicago for Summit meetings, said he’s not concerned about scheduling with an odd number of schools.
There appears to be no schools imminently looking at joining the Summit.
“We’ll see what’s out there,” Taylor said.
The sport that will probably be hurt the most is baseball, which will be down to six teams in the league. That’s the minimum number needed for automatic qualifier status to the NCAA tournament.
One remedy could be affiliated membership in baseball, with the likes of Big Sky Conference schools North Dakota or Northern Colorado. The Big Sky does not sponsor baseball and schools compete in the Great West Conference.
On the other hand, ORU has won the Summit title 14 straight years.
“With them leaving, the league is wide open,” said NDSU head coach Tod Brown.
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.