History of the Southwest Preparatory Conference
The Oakridge School athletic teams have much to be proud of during what are often competitive fall and winter seasons in the 17-school member athletic conference that we call home — the SPC.
Oakridge joined the Southwest Preparatory Conference, or SPC, in 1990, and has been a proud and active member for more than 27 years. Head of School Jon Kellam serves as president of the SPC Board of Directors. In reflecting on our nearly three decades in the Conference, Commissioner Bob Windham said during the 2017-2018 school year, “SPC has appreciated the Oakridge School’s long-standing positive relationship, and we greatly value the leadership that Jon Kellam has provided.”
The Southwest Preparatory Conference was established in 1952 at a meeting consisting of five schools. Three schools from Houston – St. John’s, Kinkaid, and Lutheran – met with St. Stephen’s of Austin and St. Mark’s of Dallas to discuss forming a loosely knit organization, without binding rules, to collaborate with, and compete against like-minded schools. After a second meeting, leaders from the five schools agreed to create the “Association of Texas Preparatory Schools.” The Association met semi-annually, rotating the location among the schools. The host school provided the chairman of the meeting and lunch, and the next host school provided the secretary.
The first Association football team was St. Stephen’s in the fall of 1952. The first Association basketball tournament was held at the end of February 1953, and it included three guest teams to fill out the eight-team bracket. The Association allowed the players to select the “All-Association” team in football, and the coaches selected the “All-Association” team for basketball during the first year.
The first year of operation created much discussion regarding many topics that led to guidelines that would govern the conference for the next 60 years. Some of those topics included the following:
- Should admission to Association games be charged?
- How to best share tournament expenses?
- How should traveling teams handle lodging?
- How to secure officials?
One interesting piece of history is that two headmasters officiated a varsity football game between Casady and St. Stephen’s one night when officials did not show up for the game.
In April of 1953, Casady and Hockaday were invited to become members of the Association. At the end of that school year, Casady and Hockaday became the sixth and seventh members of the Association. The following year, two firsts occurred: the first girls’ basketball tournament was held, and girls’ volleyball began as a spring sport. Texas Military Institute of San Antonio was admitted as the eighth school at the end of 1955. The next year began with the Association adopting a constitution of governance and ended with the admission of Allen Military Academy of Bryan, TX as the ninth member school.
The Association of Texas Preparatory Schools officially changed its name to the Southwest Preparatory Conference in 1958. Later that year, the first baseball tournament, track meet, tennis and golf matches occurred. Greenhill joined the conference in 1958, but did not participate in football. The next several years saw the addition of soccer, field hockey, and cross-country as SPC sports and the coming and going of schools as the conference grew to over ten schools. One key development was the determination that membership required a school to be a member in good standing with the Independent Schools of the Southwest (ISAS), an independent school accreditation agency.
The 1970s saw the SPC survive the national energy crisis by creatively restructuring tournaments and travel. By this time, the two military academies and Lutheran had left the conference while Trinity Valley, Fort Worth Country Day, and Wichita (KS) Collegiate had joined the conference. The conference guidelines grew as code of conduct language was applied to schools, athletes, parents, and spectators.
In addition to Oakridge, there are 16 other member schools in the SPC. There is one in Oklahoma, eight in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, two in Austin, and six in the greater Houston area. These 17 schools are among the finest college preparatory, independent schools in the southwest, and all embrace a common philosophy of educating the whole child through exposure to academics, arts, and athletic programs. One distinguishing characteristic of the SPC is the season-ending tournaments. The College Board sets the Advanced Placement testing schedule in late spring, and the SPC concludes all of its competition by those dates.
Throughout its time, the conference has continued to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the independent schools involved. Mr. Kellam recently stated, “Oakridge is proud of its continued affiliation with the Southwest Preparatory Conference. Knowing our student-athletes compete against others from like-minded schools in Texas and Oklahoma in a safe and positive environment inspires confidence that our teams are in a great position for success.”