The newest member of the Southland Conference, and the third private school to be added in the last two years, is Incarnate Word of San Antonio.

The university will officially join the league on July 1, 2013, coinciding with its four-year transition to NCAA Division I. Currently a member of the Division II Lone Star Conference, Incarnate Word will begin the four-year shift to Division I with the Southland Conference’s assistance and oversight. It is expected that UIW will begin counting as an NCAA Division I team for scheduling purposes in 2014-15, and will be fully eligible for NCAA championship events in 2017-18.

Incarnate Word will participate in all of the Southland’s 17 sponsored championships. In 2013-14, the athletic program will receive Southland schedules in all sports, except football, as the UIW program will begin league play in the fall of 2014.

"As is the case with other membership additions, the board (of directors) has only shown interest in institutions that clearly bring added value to the league," said SLC commissioner Tom Burnett during a news conference at Frisco, Texas. "That includes strong academic performance, athletic competitiveness and achievement, excellent playing facilities, geographic fit, media market size and presence in the market, and strong fan support. UIW is a historic and accomplished institution, and has the potential and resources to be a competitively successful member of the Southland Conference and NCAA Division I."

Founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, the university was originally chartered as a college for women, and only became co-educational in 1971. Located in the Alamo Heights area, UIW boasts a beautiful 154-acre campus where the headwaters of the San Antonio River that feeds the famous River Walk begin.

Athletically, the Cardinals have held membership in NCAA Division II since 1999, and the Lone Star Conference since 2009, and will have an athletics budget of $9.5 million in 2012-13. In addition to the 17 Southland Conference sports, the Cardinals also sponsor men’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and women’s synchronized swimming.

As we’ve discussed the possibilities of membership with our internal groups, it’s been very evident in every conversation that the San Antonio metro area is very important to our university administrators and coaches," Burnett said. "The city has always been vital to the conference, has played a large role in our historic success, and we look forward to continuing a mutually beneficial relationship with the city and a great new university partner."