OU revealed on Thursday it has created a committee to manage the internal and external needs of the university as it prepares to enter the Southeastern Conference by 2025.
Eric Stevenson, the OU Board of Regents chair overseeing administration and operations, said during the group’s meeting in Tulsa that athletic director Joe Castiglione has assembled a select team to prepare for the future move.
“We're continuing to make great progress on our readiness to move to the SEC,” Stevenson said. “Joe and his team have put together a robust committee to address both internal OU and external community needs to make sure that we're ready when we do make that move to the SEC and we continue to be on track for that to happen in 2025.”
OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. said after the meeting that Lawrence McKinney, director of the Norman Economic Development Coalition, will lead the SEC preparation coalition, advising the Norman Chamber of Commerce, the university and the local business community on the implications of a conference change that will boost tourism, dining, hotel stays and more in years to come.
Prior to his work in Norman, McKinney was CEO of multiple public and private economic development organizations in Florida and Georgia. That included Athens, home of the University of Georgia — one of the many new foes the Sooners will face and whose infrastructure they’ll look to emulate in the SEC.
Broader SEC preparation efforts by the university and athletics department have steadily become public in the months since former football coach Lincoln Riley departed for Southern California.
Castiglione said last November that OU administrators began a “comprehensive review” of the athletics department, which included visiting a handful of SEC schools to gain insight about finances, staffing and development.
In March, the McCasland Foundation donated $1.25 million for upgrading the lobby, locker rooms, coaching offices and training areas inside McCasland Field House. The foundation also contributed $500,000 to Love’s Field, the new softball stadium that received its lead gift from Love’s Travel Stops last October and is set to open in 2024.
This summer, OU demolished the Bud Wilkinson House, the old athletic dorm on the northeast corner of Lindsey Street and Jenkins Avenue, giving it a blank canvas immediately east of Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and north of Headington Hall, which since 2013 has served as student-athlete housing.
“We reached the conclusion after thoroughly considering all options. … We’re going to basically take the structure down,” Castiglione told OU Daily in March. “And that will be a site for future concepts we’re considering, … something on that site that will serve the needs of our athletic program.”
The university has considered relocating Student Athlete Academic Services to the vacated area or turning it into collaborative learning commons, administrative offices, Varsity O-Club facilities or a multipurpose space.
Regents also considered updates to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, the Lloyd Noble Center, L. Dale Mitchell Park, the current OU softball complex, Sam Viersen Gymnastics Center, Mosier Indoor Track Facility, Headington Family Tennis Center and Charlie Coe Golf Learning Center during their May meeting.
Earlier in September, the installation of new LED lights with creative sequencing capabilities was completed at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The university debuted a new light show it hopes will one day rival that of other SEC schools at its Sept. 11 game against Kent State.