DATE:  September 1, 2006       
CONTACT: Craig Merriman, Sports Information Director, (361) 825-3410; or Steve Paschal, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2336

‘Southland Conference Day’ to Celebrate the Beginning of New Era in Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Athletics
Mayor’s Proclamation to Recognize Islanders’ Contributions to Community
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi President/CEO Flavius Killebrew, Southland Conference Commissioner Tom Burnett and Islander Director of Athletics Brian Teter will join Mayor Henry Garrett in celebrating “Southland Conference Day” in Corpus Christi Thursday, Sept. 7. This historic occasion marks the first official visit of Commissioner Burnett since the athletic program joined this distinguished conference.

Mayor Garrett will officially present a municipal proclamation during a ceremony at 3 p.m. in the University Center, Legacy Hall. In addition, Dr. Killebrew will present the University’s coveted “Silver Wave” award to distance runner Shadrack Songok who last spring became the first Islander athlete to earn NCAA All-America honors.

“Membership in the Southland Conference is truly a great achievement for the University,” said Killebrew. “Our athletics program is a vital part of our overall vision and has brought distinction to the University and generated greater community involvement since its reintroduction in 1998. Being a member of such an outstanding conference brings additional prestige to our athletics program and to the entire University.”

Although the Islander men’s tennis team has won two Southland Conference championships while competing as an affiliate member since 2004, the University did not become an official member of the Southland Conference until July 1 of this year. The addition of A&M-Corpus Christi marks the first expansion of the Southland Conference in eight years and gives the Islander program new opportunities for national exposure since champions in each sport automatically qualify for NCAA post-season competition.

The Southland Conference was formed in 1963 and consists of member institutions in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. The conference sponsors 17 championship sports at the NCAA Division I level with conference champions earning automatic qualification to NCAA championships in football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, men's golf, men's and women's track and field, men's and women's tennis, and women's soccer.

"This is a momentous occasion for the Southland Conference, and we are very excited to welcome Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the entire Coastal Bend community into the league,” said Burnett. “From the beginning of our membership process, it's been a real pleasure to learn more about a great institution with an athletics program on the rise that will bring immediate benefits to the Southland. 

“We appreciate the outstanding leadership of President Killebrew, and we value the excellent relationships we are building with other university administrators and new friends in the area. We look forward to a great beneficial partnership, and we are thrilled to kick off our athletic and academic year with an outstanding day of festivities in Corpus Christi."

The University discontinued collegiate athletic competition in 1973 but the program was reinstated in 1997 under the leadership of former athletics director Dan Viola. After Viola resigned earlier this year, Teter, an associate athletics director at the University of Cincinnati, took over the Islander program which has grown to include 14 varsity teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women indoor/outdoor track and field. While A&M-Corpus Christi has not fielded a football team in more than 30 years, the University is conducting a study to determine the feasibility of reviving the program.

 “This is a landmark moment in the brief history of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi both for the institution and the athletic department,” said Teter. “Membership in the Southland Conference will improve, enhance and strengthen the things we want to accomplish and I’m excited about being in this league. I have no doubt that we will be a significant player in the Southland Conference.”

Other conference members from Texas include Lamar University in Beaumont, Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas State University in San Marcos, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Louisiana schools include McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. The University of Central Arkansas came into the league with A&M-Corpus Christi this past July.