John Hudson all about betterment of small college student-athletes

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

One of the most influential small college administrators visited Ottawa University Wednesday and met with the students.

John Hudson is the retired commissioner of the Sooner Athletic Conference for 38 years. He took the conference from its infancy to being one of the most accomplished small college conferences in the nation.

John Hudson in his presentation to the Ottawa University students said, “It’s better to be kind and nice than to be right.”

During Hudson’s nearly four decades as commissioner, the SAC won 84 national championships, including 11 men’s and 15 women’s basketball titles. He also was at the time a member of the NAIA's Conference Commissioners Association.

Hudson wrote the constitution for the SAC in 1978 and served as the SAC's only commissioner until his retirement in 2016. He never accepted a salary and ran the conference from his law office in Edmond, Oklahoma. He grew the conference from five Oklahoma schools to a 12-school conference that spans four states.

Hudson was the recipient of the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Small College Basketball Association.

Hudson fell in love with small college athletics. He funded many league initiatives out of his own pocket – symbolizing his dedication to his work and the betterment of student-athletes.

“It is more normal people, regular people participating in a sport and enjoying what they are doing,” Hudson said about small college programs. “Amateur sports is so much different than professional sports. Very few people are able to play professional sports. This is for every [person]. We can all do this, whether we are good at it or not.”

Hudson asked the students attending the event to raise their hand if they were an athlete. Nearly everyone did, which is much different than when Hudson was in school in the early 1970s and first started as an administrator.

“There is a ton of more sports than there used to be,” Hudson said. “We did not have Esports, bowling as a varsity sport back in the day. It is a lot more variety. There is more exposure. Small college still does not get the publicity that the bigger schools get. It has changed in the sense that there is a lot more of it. More kids participate in it. Did you see all the kids that raised their hands. When I was in college, very few kids played sports. It is completely different in that regard.”

Hudson remained SAC commissioner for nearly four decades for a variety of reasons.

“My wife said I can never say no to anybody,” he said. “I felt like I had pride. They treated me really well. When it was athletic directors and basketball coaches —they usually were the same guy— it was a close knit fraternity. When it got bigger with more schools and when the presidents became more involved, it became a lot different. I was able to stay close to the game and do something I enjoyed. They referred to me as the owner of the league.”

Through the years, Hudson assigned basketball officials for the SAC and also served as a trainer and Observer of Basketball Officials for the Big 12 Conference for 15 years. He has helped current and former players, coaches, athletic directors, and officials throughout his career. 

He also represents many prominent clients in both the entertainment and sports world, and currently represents two NBA stars and an entertainment mogul, who recently was named to Forbes Billionaires list.