A Fan's Guide to the Sooner Athletic Conference
Q & A with Ray Fink, league S.I.D. and historian
What are the benefits SAGU and other new members enjoy?
The SAC has won 84 national championships and is looking for more
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Southwestern Assemblies of God University is one of four new members to link up with one of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ (NAIA) premier conferences; the Sooner Athletic Conference.
Along with Texas Wesleyan University (Ft. Worth) and Northwood University (Cedar Hill) joined SAGU as three former Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) members to move to the Sooner.
Also making the simultaneous junction is Southwestern Christian University (Bethany, Ok), who were previously in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference.
The SAC has a storied past and with the recent readjustments of the four new institutions fastening to the fold, SAGU fans may appreciate the history and culture of the league that is their new home.
Ray Fink, a veteran Sports Information Director at Oklahoma Baptist University, was interviewed about SAC in an effort to educate the Lions fan base.
He was asked a dozen questions. Doubling as the SID for the Sooner gives him a distinct vantage point that few can share. (His Bio is at the end of the story)
Q1) How old is the SAC? What is the height of membership (numbers wise)?
Ray Fink: The Sooner Athletic Conference began in 1977-78 with Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University), Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Christian University, (the now closed) Phillips University (Enid, Ok) and the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma.
We had twelve members two years ago.
Q2) The 84 national championships by SAC member institutions, how does that rank with other conferences?
Ray: I'm not sure of the (number of) titles from other conferences, but the GSAC (Golden State Athletic Conference) has a ton of track and field and swimming and diving championships. So, we're first or second.
Q3) Adding four new members this year give the Sooner a total of 11 schools. Tell us about the schools who recently departed. Where are they now?
Ray: Southern Nazarene and Northwestern Oklahoma State University have gone to the Great American Conference. Oklahoma Christian, Lubbock Christian University and Rogers State University have left for the Heartland Conference.
All five are transitioning to NCAA Division II and are no longer NAIA members.
Q4) The conference added four new members this year; one from the Oklahoma City area and three from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. What are the benefits these schools bring to the SAC?
Ray: I think the benefits are mutual. The SAC is the best NAIA league there is. The SAC benefits by getting exposure in the metroplex, but also from the member schools.
SAGU reached the NAIA finals in men's basketball, Northwood had a great showing in the NAIA World Series and Texas Wesleyan is rock solid across the board as well.
Q5) The SAC launched a new website in the fall. Who designed it and who influenced its features?
Ray: It's was designed and hosted by SIDHelp, also known as e-Solutions Architects. There was input from five SIDs from the conference regarding the features.
Its address is: http://www.soonerathletic.org
Q6) What are the primary features that fans will find on the home page?
Ray: It is pretty easy to navigate and will include scores from around the league, instantly updated standings, news from all the schools in the SAC and league announcements.
Q7) What is new or considered the most positive changes?
Ray: Probably the overall look, but you will be able to scroll through Players of the Week, search out archived stories and check out the member schools a little easier.
Q8) What type of information can be found about each school and their athletic teams?
Ray: Each school will have a member page that will include its basic facts, a photo from the campus and the athletic department's Twitter feed.
Q9) Does the SAC offer the same statistics that the NAIA posts on their website?
Ray: We pretty much link to those stats.
Q10) Who manages the site?
Ray: I oversee the website in general, but each school SID is responsible for updating their rosters and schedules and posting their scores and news releases.
Q11) The NAIA produces a weekly Top 25 Coaches Poll in various sports. Does the SAC offer a Pre-Season ranking of teams in the different sports? If so, who votes?
Ray: We do preseason polls for basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball. The coaches rank all the teams in the league except their own.
Q12) In September the Sooner's annual meeting of Athletic Directors and Sports Information Directors was held on the campus of a new member, SAGU. What kind of items are often on the agenda at these events?
Ray: The AD's discuss membership, policies, championship sites and expectations and national-level action items.
The SIDs do troubleshooting; discuss best policies and expectations and discuss the best ways to handle new mandates, rule changes and things of that nature as they regard statistics and media relations. We also exchange ideas about new technology.
Ray Fink BIO
Ray Fink, 50, was born into an Air Force family in Columbus, Ohio. Their mobility included stops in New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Okinawa (Japan).
His family eventually landed in Abilene, Texas (180 miles west of Dallas). After graduating from Cooper High School he enrolled at Oklahoma Baptist University. There he met Pam, whom he’d marry. She is the softball head coach there.
The Finks have two kids; Kelly, who graduated from OBU in 2012 after a four-year career in softball for the Bison. Collin is a senior at Shawnee High School.
Ray and Pam have worked at OBU since 1993. He was named the conference SID in 2002, the same year he won the Ike Pearson Award (Annual Outstanding NAIA Communications and Sports Information Director).
He describes his greatest joys about his career and vocation: “One of the greatest joys of being an SID is that I serve at my alma mater. Our coaches all seem to appreciate the amount of work I do. It's not like that everywhere, so I try not to take that for granted.”
Prior to being hired at OBU he worked at a local newspaper in Shawnee (39 miles east of OKC); as well as serving as the police beat reporter and the sports editor for a news outlet in Americus, Georgia. Four years later they returned to Shawnee (pop. 30,000).
Teaming with him at OBU is fulltime Assistant SID, Casady Fletcher.