Nov. 5, 2003
The University of Tulsa President, Dr. Bob Lawless:
"We are delighted to be going to Conference USA. We think for many, many reasons that it is an appropriate geographical listing for us. It is an association with schools that have similar missions as The University of Tulsa. Some of the schools that are considered high academic with relatively low enrollment, and in terms of competition and travels costs, it will allow our student-athletes to have more time to spend in class and less missed class time. The entire aspect is one that we're excited about.
At the same time, I would like to say that this is our eighth year of competing in the Western Athletic Conference. We have enjoyed the colleagues that we have in the conference. We've enjoyed being in the conference. The travel has been fairly extensive and once the WAC split, the people in the Mountain time zone that left to be part of the Mountain West (Conference) created extra travel problems and circumstances that we didn't envision early on. But we very much enjoyed the WAC and we wish them well as they continue, but we are excited about the opportunities of being in Conference USA."
On how much impact will the realignment help the TU football team and stadium:
"Obviously, winning is better than losing in anyone's eyes, and certainly the ideas that we have and the vulnerability that we had about were we serious about football, the success of coach (Steve) Kragthorpe and his program has helped immensely in terms of that. People sometimes question are we serious about football. I try to respond to them by saying we wouldn't have made the search and hired coach Kragthorpe if we were not serious about football. He could tell you himself that when we talked to him, we talked about not only competing, but winning conference championships. We're serious about football, but you can say whatever you want to say. Unless you have some success, obviously one win a year the last two years, didn't look like we were very serious about football. I don't think most people outside the coaching staff and the team expected the turnaround that they have been able to create and achieve at this point in time. I'm sure they had the confidence all along and they are probably not through winning games this year. Certainly in people's minds that has helped.
Also the commitment we made a long time ago when we spent $100,000 for architectural studies for various projects, renovations and improvements to Skelly Stadium. We certainly don't have the money to throw away if it were not something we were planning to follow up with and actually do some stadium renovations. They (state-funded institutions) always wait on funds, and not being a public institution, we don't have any funds we can just put over there. We have to raise the funds, but we have the plans in place to improve the facility for football and I know our commitment is to be successful."
On whether Tulsa was recruited by Conference USA or did Tulsa have to go to Conference USA:
"This is a situation in terms of looking out for your institution. Judy and I have been exploring what is best for The University of Tulsa for a long time. I would say when the eight schools left the WAC to form the Mountain West, we began discussions with various people talking about The University of Tulsa. Clearly there have been changes during that period of time. The person that was the commissioner of Conference USA at that time is now the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. But with all the different changes and various rumors that might happen out in the west with the Mountain West, I think it is fair to say that Judy has been very, very active in making sure that many people knew, including Conference USA, about the athletic base and program of The University of Tulsa. So, I guess if you were really drawing a line, you might have to say that we contacted them because we were active while being true to the WAC. We also were true to ourselves as trying to look out for what was best. Judy was always there making sure people knew about The University of Tulsa. We didn't leave it where we hoped people knew about us. Judy was proactive in making sure people knew about us.
I think Conference USA had an interest too because I think there was some intrigue to putting together Rice SMU and Tulsa. That was a triplet in a sense that people started talking about in Conference USA and got very excited. I think there was a mutual attraction there. They knew about us through Judy's effort, and I had talked to Mike Slive a long time ago about the possibility. The answer then was the only way we could get into Conference USA was to move the university to Dallas, or to some big metropolitan area. But commissioners change and circumstances change, and I think we are attractive."
Tulsa Director of Athletics Judy MacLeod:
On was it a no-contest decision to go to Conference USA:
"One of the things that appealed to us, and we've stated this in the past, was the regional composition and division in our region. At one time we thought that might be possible in the WAC, but it turned out not to be. In that regard, it was a relatively easy decision."
"I would like to say that I am really pleased this happened under Dr. Lawless' watch because he and Marcy's (Lawless) vision and commitment to the university and to the overall program, this is just a piece of that. This is a testament to what he has done for our athletic program.