The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma was well into its history before introducing its first sports teams in 1973 — teams that became known as the Drovers and the Droverettes, named after the rich heritage of cattle driving in the Chickasha area.
The athletic programs began when the school was still named Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts. It started with 10 baseball games and two golf matches scheduled in the spring of 1973. The Drovers’ most prominent sport — basketball — began in the fall of 1973.
Coaching the Drovers basketball team for their first few seasons was John Hudson, now commissioner of the Sooner Athletic Conference. The Droverettes first head coach was Tinnie Tiger, who coached from 1973-1976.
The first Drover and Droverette basketball games were set against Bethany Nazarene College on Nov. 17, 1973. Two days later, on Nov. 19, then Chickasha Mayor Samuel E. Evans declared “Drovers Day” as the university celebrated its first home game in Myers Fieldhouse, which was owned by Chickasha Public Schools. In 1981, the Drovers broke ground on the USAO Fieldhouse, which gave the teams a place to practice and play in their own backyard. Phase I of the building was completed during the 1981-1982 season. Three more phases added dressing rooms, training areas and a swimming pool complex.
During that first year, the Drovers borrowed uniforms in blue, gold and white. In the school’s second season, the OCLA Drovers became the USAO Drovers, and new uniforms in our trademark green and gold colors were acquired.
Long-time head basketball coach Brisco McPherson played for the first Drover basketball team and has been connected with the program ever since.
In the 1987 season, Herb Blunt became USAO’s first All-American and earned Player of the Year honors in the Sooner Athletic Conference and NAIA’s District 9.
In 2002, the men’s basketball team went on to claim the Drovers first NAIA National Championship, beating out conference rival Oklahoma Baptist University 96-79.
After a 17-year hiatus, baseball was reborn in 1994, when the USAO Board of Regents voted to expand USAO’s sports programs to include baseball, softball and cross country. Long-time Drover supporter and USAO administrator Bill Smith donated his personal baseball memorabilia to auction off for funds to help re-establish the Drover baseball and softball programs. In 1995, he became the namesake of the Drovers’ ballpark.
Both baseball and softball programs have served the university well, with baseball earning the Red River Conference North Division Championship in 1999 and softball claiming the SAC Championship in 2004. The softball program earned three straight NAIA National Tournament appearances in the mid-2000s.
USAO proudly supported a tennis teams for years. The women’s tennis team in 1999 became the first in school history to win a regional championship. That year, both the men’s and women’s team’s qualified for the NAIA National Tournament.
While the golf team served the college sporadically with pride for many seasons, it along with tennis, was discontinued in lean years.
In 1998, the Drovers began the men’s and women’s soccer programs under Coach Jimmy Hampton. The Drover men have claimed numerous Sooner Athletic Conference championships and have been to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship tournament three times. In 2010 and 2011, the Drover men made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the tournament, making history for the young program.
In 2011, the Drover women’s soccer team competed in their first NAIA National Tournament and won the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament title for the first time in the program’s history.
Beginning in fall of 2012, the Drovers brought back cross country, which served the university a few seasons in the mid-1990s.
USAO began play as part of a five-school group that started the Sooner Athletic Conference. USAO dropped out of the SAC in 1994 to join the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference. The Drovers played in the OIC for just four seasons before moving on to the Red River Athletic Conference. After only two seasons with the RRAC, USAO applied for and was granted membership back into the SAC for the 2000-2001 season.
The Drovers have a rich history of winning and producing quality student-athletes. The university boasts 32 All-Americans, 53 NAIA Scholar-Athletes and 179 All-Conference coaches and athletes throughout its history.
USAO hosted its 40th Anniversary of Athletics on Nov. 1-3, 2012.