SWOSU President Randy Beutler receives 2021 Cecil Perkins Service Award
On Monday, the SWOSU Athletic Department began a virtual All-Sports Banquet with the announcement that SWOSU President Randy Beutler has been selected to receive the Cecil Perkins Service Award.
“We would like to thank President Beutler for his years of service to Southwestern Oklahoma State University and everything that he has done to enhance our athletic department,” SWOSU Athletic Director Todd Helton said. “He’s been a great leader for our university and he was instrumental in the formation of the Great American Conference, for which his legacy will live on. We wish President Beutler all the best in his future endeavors.”
This is the ninth year that the Cecil Perkins Service Award has been presented. The award is named for Perkins, the former SWOSU Athletic Director who passed away in September 2013. Perkins helped pioneer the direction of the Bulldogs' athletic programs for more than a quarter century, elevating the SWOSU Athletic Department to the NCAA Division II level. His philosophy of putting the student-athlete first in any decision has led to hundreds of individual success stories that continue to positively impact the new generation of students, coaches and teams at SWOSU and beyond.
“I want to thank everyone for the ability to serve as the President of SWOSU, but I’m especially very honored and humbled to receive an award named after Cecil Perkins,” Beutler said. “Cecil was a great friend of mine and he did great things for this institution. He was a person who put student-athletes first, but he also demanded much of them and I think that’s important. Cecil had core values he preached, such as discipline, respect and doing your best which allowed him to impact countless Bulldogs.”
Beutler is the 17th President in Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s history, holding the position since February 1, 2010. Last fall, Beutler announced that he would be retiring from his position this summer.
A native of western Oklahoma, Beutler graduated from Canute High School in 1979 and enrolled at SWOSU, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in 1983 and graduated Cum Laude with a Social Science Major. Upon graduation, he taught social sciences at Washita Heights and Weatherford High School before being elected to the District 60 seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1992. He was reelected to the seat three times, serving until 2000.
“I followed SWOSU closely while I was in the legislature because Sayre was in my district,” Beutler said. “One great memory I have of that time was in 1996 when the SWOSU Football team won the NAIA National Championship. I was there when Dr. Joe Anna Hibler brought the team to the State Capital and I still have my cap from that meeting that she gave me and it’s displayed on my book case.”
In 2003, Beutler was appointed by Governor Brad Henry as his legislative liaison to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, at which point he also began serving as an adjunct professor of history back at SWOSU. Three years later, President John Hays hired Beutler to return to campus and assist with external affairs, legislative matters and grant development, which he did until taking over as President.
Early in his tenure as President, Beutler had several challenges that awaited, but from those challenges came great growth for the university. Since 1997, SWOSU had been competing in NCAA Division II and the Lone Star Conference, which pushed the university to it’s limits in terms of resourcing and the Oklahoma schools in the league began to feel unwelcome. It was then that discussions began between six schools in Arkansas and three from Oklahoma about the formation of a new conference – the Great American Conference.
“There was no guarantee that the GAC was going to be approved by the NCAA or that the league would succeed, but with the determination of all the Presidents, Athletic Directors and staffs, we were able to,” Beutler said. “The conference was built with a vision, one that didn’t just focus on the here and now but rather on the long-term goals of what could be achieved, and I think as you look today that’s very much been realized. The emphasis was on the student-athlete and their future, to help them be successful in their future lives and that’s a shared goal from all of those schools that joined the conference.”
While the conference was being formed, another exciting project was in the works as the student body of SWOSU and the City of Weatherford pledged funds for what would become the Pioneer Cellular Event Center. Just a few months after Beutler took office, the citizens of Weatherford approved a sales tax that would benefit the project while SWOSU students voted in a fee that would generate a combined $14 million, more than half the construction costs. The hope was to build a multipurpose facility that could not only house many SWOSU Athletic programs but also be used to host other sporting events along with trade shows and concerts, among other events.
“The Pioneer Cellular Event Center is a transformational building for this campus,” Beutler said. “We wanted to build something that the people of Weatherford would be proud of and the Event Center has certainly lived up to the hype. What we have seen, through the research of our Business Enterprise Center, is that the economic impact is well over $20 million since its opening and I think its best days are still ahead. I’m very proud of that building.”
The 93,000 square-foot Event Center is the Crown Jewell of Western Oklahoma and it has served as the home of SWOSU Men’s and Women’s Basketball and Volleyball since January 2014. Several high school tournaments are played in the facility each year and it has become an annual home to OSSAA State Playoffs as well. The Pioneer Cellular Event Center made its national television debut on January 28, 2017, when the Bulldog Basketball teams were selected for the NCAA Division II Basketball Showcase, a doubleheader against GAC rival Arkansas Tech which was broadcast live on the American Sports Network.
“One of my proudest moments was when we hosted the Division II Showcase Game of the Week a few years back,” Beutler said. “During the time in between games, they interviewed me and during the commercial break, the producer in the truck was talking to me about how many facilities they had been to across the nation and to them, they believed this was the finest facility they had seen in NCAA Division II. That made me very proud and realized that the team effort of the city, students, faculty, staff, corporate sponsors and everybody else who contributed had been well worth it.”
With the new conference and improved facilities, success has followed for the SWOSU Athletic department. The Women’s Basketball and Golf programs have become perennial NCAA Tournament contenders while Soccer, Baseball and Volleyball have also made NCAA appearances and the Football team had a banner season in 2015 that included a berth in the Live United Texarkana Bowl.
Beutler cites the athletic department as a critical piece of the campus culture, especially at the Division II level.
“At D2, students come here because they want to continue their education and because they love their sport and want to excel at it,” he said. “What I tell people is that sports provide a great culture to the university. There’s no better place to be in the world than on a college campus in the fall, when leaves are changing colors, you’ve got football and other sports and it brings out that college atmosphere that students, alumni and fans expect on a campus.”
One sport of particular interest to Beutler is the Rodeo team, the one program SWOSU Athletics sponsors which does not compete in the NCAA. Instead, Rodeo is governed by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) and they compete in the Central Plains Region, which covers the states of Kansas and Oklahoma. Beutler comes from a family that has been in the rodeo business since 1929 and some of his family members assisted Hall of Fame Rodeo Coach Doc Mitchell in starting a college rodeo program and hosting the annual SWOSU Rodeo, which takes place each April.
“The SWOSU Rodeo and the rodeo teams here mean a great deal to me,” Beutler said. “Just like many of our other programs, we have a great tradition and we’ve won several national championships under Doc Mitchell and that success has continued to the current day under Coach Mike Visnieski. I love it not only because of my family connection, but because of the ability to connect with those student-athletes and help recruit them to SWOSU, which is a place that can enhance their lives both athletically and academically. We have had a multitude of rodeo athletes who have gone on to achieve great success in the professional ranks, including several world champions and that’s unique to our institution. Not every school our size has a rodeo program and certainly not one as successful as ours.”
The success of the athletic programs would not be possible without great external support, which is one area that has made great strides during Beutler’s tenure. While the university and events hosted bring an economic benefit to the area, the citizens of Weatherford and supporters of SWOSU Athletics are quick to return the favor with their philanthropic support. A group he specifically mentioned was the SWOSU Athletic Association, which provides promotion and support for the athletic department through fundraising and annual memberships.
“We are so lucky to have the area support from alumnus and others that is funneled through the Athletic Association,” he said. “We couldn’t operate a successful athletic program without that external support and they’re always there to provide assistance in any way they can. They were very instrumental in creating the Athletic Auction, which has become a great fundraising event over the year, but more than that it’s an exciting event that brings friends of our university back to campus to celebrate our successes while raising money that provides financial relief to the institution.”
Beutler joins an exclusive list of Athletic Association members and proud university supporters who have been presented with the Cecil Perkins Service Award, which has been given annually since 2013.
Cecil Perkins Service Award Recipients
2021: Randy Beutler
2020: Herschel Brewster
2019: Stan Garrison
2018: Les Crall
2017: Jim Litsch
2016: Jimmy Harrel
2015: Rick Koch
2014: Max & Judy Pyron
2013: Joe Phillips
By SWOSU athletics