What began as a basketball conference has become a dominant grouping of some of the best athletic programs in the NAIA.
The Sooner Athletic Conference began in 1977-78 with Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University), Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Christian University, Phillips University and the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma. Only one of those charter members is no longer with the conference, which has since added to its strength.
John Brown University has twice been an expansion team in the conference, joining the league in 1980 and then re-joining the SAC in 1995 after a 12-year absence.
Oklahoma City University dropped out of the ranks of NCAA Division I in 1985 and took up residence in the SAC, beginning in the 1985-86 season.
Lubbock Christian University and Wayland Baptist University left their independent status behind and were admitted as the first Texas members of the SAC in 1994, replacing USAO, which opted to leave the league that year.
St. Gregory's University, applied for membership and was granted associate member status and competed for the conference crown for the first time in 1998-99.
Charter member Phillips University was closed in the summer of 1998 due to financial instability.
USAO, which had dropped out and joined the Red River Athletic Conference, applied for and was granted membership in the SAC during the 1999-2000 school year.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University was added to the conference as a full member in the 2001-02 academic year.
Mid-America Christian University and Rogers State joined the league and became full members in 2007-08.
Northwestern Oklahoma State, Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma Christian, Rogers State and Lubbock Christian dropped down to NCAA Division II in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The league grew to 11 in 2013-14, adding Texas Wesleyan, Southwestern Assemblies of God, Northwood and Southwestern Christian.
The Sooner Athletic Conference has had a proud heritage in the NAIA. In men's basketball, a SAC team has played for the national championship 15 times and has been in the finals in 14 of the last 20 seasons. Oklahoma Baptist won the national title in 2010 and leads all NAIA schools with 58 national tournament wins. USAO won the national crown in 2002, beating Oklahoma Baptist in an all-SAC title tilt, John Brown won the 2005 crown and Oklahoma City won it all in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2007 and 2008.
In women's basketball, SAC members have won 10 titles, including a four-year run by Oklahoma City from 1999-2002.
But basketball is just the tip of the iceberg of success in the SAC.
Oklahoma Baptist won the Learfield Sports Director's Cup for best overall sports program in the NAIA in 2013.
In track, Oklahoma Baptist won the 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2013 women's indoor national title along with the 2012 outdoor title and both OBU and Lubbock Christian have won national men's track championships in the 1990s, with the Bison adding another outdoor men's title in 2007, along with the indoor title in 2013. Wayland Baptist captured both the women's indoor and outdoor national titles in 2008 and 2009 and the men's outdoor title in 2010 and indoor championship in 2012.
Lubbock Christian won every men's cross country national title from 1990-97 and Oklahoma Christian claimed the 2011 men's title.
In baseball, Lubbock Christian won the national title in 1983 and 2009, and Oklahoma City reached the finals in every season from 2002 until winning the title in 2005 among its league-best 13 appearances. OBU also has appeared three times. Oklahoma Christian, Wayland Baptist, Southern Nazarene and John Brown also have made appearances in the national tournament. The SAC has had two teams in the World Series since the postseason structure changed in 2009 and had three in 2011.
Over a span from 1993-2002, Oklahoma City was in the national softball championship game 10 times, winning it all in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002 and again in 2007. They also were runner-up in 1986, 1993, 1999 and again in 2010. OCU has reached the national tournament a national-record 25 times. Lubbock Christian threw its hat in the ring in 2008 and came away with a national title. St. Gregory's was the national runner-up in 2009. Oklahoma Baptist has made it to three tournaments, while Oklahoma Christian has made it twice. The SAC carries an impressive 142-59 record at the national tournament.
In men's golf, Oklahoma City won the national championship in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013 and was the runner-up in 1991. Oklahoma Christian was runner-up in 2001 and won it all in 2009, when four SAC teams were in the final top 12, and was runner-up again in 2010. The Eagles won it all again in 2011. Wayland Baptist was runner-up in 2007.
Southern Nazarene won the women's golf titles in 1999 and 2002, with OCU finishing as runner-up in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010, claiming the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013 national crowns.
Oklahoma Christian won the men's tennis national title in 2003 and 2012 and Oklahoma City claimed the national championship in a four-year run from 1998-2001. The OCU men were also runners up in 1994 and 1995.
In women's tennis, Oklahoma City was a national runner-up in 1999.
Each year the national championships bear out what the member institutions believe: the Sooner Athletic Conference is simply the best small college conference in America.