Northwood University Welcomed Into Sooner Athletic Conference

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John Hudson, who has served as commissioner of the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) since its founding 35 years ago, was a guest at Northwood Texas campus’ opening convocation. Hudson welcomed Northwood to the SAC and pointed out that academics are as important as athletics in the SAC.

“Our conference is highly respected athletically—we have won a national championship in just about every sport the NAIA plays,” Hudson said, “But we’re just as proud of the academic accomplishments of our SAC athletes. Each of our schools go to great lengths to recruit and support youngsters who can also excel in the classroom.”

In a brief interview after the convocation, Hudson, who is the longest serving commissioner of any U.S. league, said that the two major changes he has witnessed in the last few decades are the impact of money and the expansion of the number of sports played.

“When some NCAA schools generate athletic revenues reaching $100 million annually, and others operate on a fraction of that, something has to give,” Hudson continued, “It seems like there will have to be some kind of separation.”

The number and variety of sports being played at the college level has come as something of a surprise to Hudson. “Title IX has had something to do with it,” he says, “but I think it’s also just a sign of the times. Athletics has become an important part of American life, with youngsters starting to play organized sports at an early age. And I think all these kids playing all these sports is a good thing.”

“Administering so many sports is a challenge for athletics directors as well as conference commissioners,” Hudson said.

“And of course smaller schools, like most of those in the NAIA, use sports as an enrollment driver,” he added. “So whether you’re a big school like the University of Texas or a small one like Northwood, athletics is extremely important. And many of the challenges faced by colleges and universities both large and small are identical.” All of which, Hudson remarked, makes this “an exciting time to be involved with athletics at the collegiate level.”

Northwood President and CEO Keith Pretty was the featured speaker at opening convocation. Texas campus President, Dr. Kevin Fegan, also spoke. Northwood began this fall in the Sooner Athletic Conference after many years in the Red River Athletic Conference. Accompanying Northwood to the SAC are Texas Wesleyan University (Ft. Worth), and Southwestern Assemblies of God University (Waxahachie). The addition of the three Metroplex institutions gives the SAC a solid presence in North Texas.

- Monica Hurtado