For the first time in its 124-year history, the KCAC is expanding beyond Kansas borders with the addition of Oklahoma Wesleyan beginning in the 2015-16 school year.
“It’s exciting to finally get the news out,” KCAC commissioner Scott Crawford said. “To work on something so challenging and so complicated and to get to this point is a big relief, there’s no doubt about it.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan, in Bartlesville, Okla., has been a member of the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference since the league was formed in 1994. The MCAC has nine schools in six states — Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Iowa and two in Kansas with Central Christian and Haskell.
Like the KCAC’s 10 members, Oklahoma Wesleyan is also a faith-based school and has a similar enrollment to KCAC schools with 900 students. It’s the first addition to the KCAC since Saint Mary in 1999, joining Bethany, Bethel, Friends, Kansas Wesleyan, McPherson, Ottawa, Southwestern, Sterling and Tabor.
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“It’s a great fit for a lot of different reasons,” Oklahoma Wesleyan Mark Molder said. “The marketability and the likeness of the schools being one, and being in the same geographic area makes our brand stronger and makes us able to give our athletes a better-quality education. Less time out of class and more ability to structure things for the student-athlete.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan approached the KCAC last September about joining and Crawford and the KCAC set the wheels in motion with the KCAC’s board of presidents and took a visit to Bartlesville in February. The final vote on expansion took place on June 4, and while it wasn’t a unanimous vote, it did meet the league’s bylaws of at least two-thirds of the schools voting to bring in Oklahoma Wesleyan.
Crawford has openly talked about expanding the league for several years, stating in the past that he’d like to see the KCAC move to 12 teams eventually.
Now, they’re just one away.
“We will continue to look for a 12th school,” Crawford said. “I don’t know if we’ll get to 12 soon, because it takes a lot of work and the process is complicated, but we’ll keep looking.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan competes in baseball, softball and volleyball and has men’s and women’s teams in basketball, golf, soccer, tennis and track and field. They’ll also be the only team in the KCAC without football, although that could change sooner than later.
“Football is obviously something that we’re exploring for our immediate future,” Molder said. “That’s on the horizon for us, we’re actively looking into it as a university.”