Eastern New Mexico University President Steven Gamble raised concerns Saturday about the future of the athletic conference ENMU competes in with Texas and Oklahoma schools.
During ENMU’s Board of Regents meeting in Portales, Gamble said the Lone Star Conference is “unraveling before our eyes,” and said the university may soon have to hunt for a new conference to call home.
“Two Oklahoma schools have already pulled out and three others have said they are going to,” Gamble said. “It really (could result in) the demise of the Lone Star Conference.”
Gamble wouldn’t identify the schools, but the Muskogee Phoenix reported that Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma sent letters of inquiry to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Also, lscscoop.com has reported that Southeastern Oklahoma State, Southwestern Oklahoma State and East Central University may be considering forming a new league with a group of Arkansas Division II schools.
Any decisions won’t affect this year’s sports schedules, as teams are required to give at least one year’s notice prior to leaving the Lone Star Conference.
Gamble said schools are considering leaving because of a 233 percent increase in LSC membership fees over the last three years — from $15,000 to $50,000.
The Lone Star Conference was established in 1931 with five Texas schools. The conference expanded outside of Texas in 1984 when it welcomed ENMU, and now includes 16 teams.
The LSC conducts conference championships in 16 sports (eight men and eight women). Men’s championships include football, soccer, cross country, basketball, baseball, track and field, tennis and golf. Women’s titles are determined in volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, softball, track and field, tennis and golf.
Gamble said if the Oklahoma schools form their own league, then ENMU may seek entry into that league.
One option Gamble said could be studied is joining the Rocky Mountain Conference, which includes New Mexico Highlands —which several ENMU teams often play on non-conference schedules — Western New Mexico University and University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“So that is a lot of traveling at a bad time of the year,” Gamble said. “This is the type of discussion that will be brought before the board if something happens.”