Two different stories have come out within the last 48 hours as of this writing at 11 a.m. Tuesday that suggests FCS conference realignment is imminent.
First was an article from the American Press out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is also the home of McNeese State that stated the Southland Conference is headed for a breakup.
The article states that multiple sources say that the four Texas schools that have been rumored to leave the Southland – Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin – are planning to announce their exit from the Southland in 2022.
The article states the schools are set to make an official announcement Thursday that they are headed to the Western Athletic Conference.
This means the WAC will have football for the first time in 10 years when the 2022 season begins after the conference got rid of football competition in 2012.
The plan is for the conference to compete at the FCS level before possibly making the jump back to the FBS at the end of the decade.
Currently, the WAC is composed of California Baptist, Chicago State, Dixie State, Grand Canyon University, New Mexico State, Seattle University, Tarleton State, Texas Rio-Grande Valley and Utah Valley with Southern Utah in talks to join the conference as well.
Currently, Dixie State, New Mexico State, Tarleton State are the only conference members that play football elsewhere with New Mexico State currently playing as an FBS independent.
The addition of the four Texas schools along with Dixie State and Tarleton State would put the WAC at the minimum number for FCS competition to receive an automatic qualifier to the postseason, while the conference could look to add more teams.
What was once a rumor now seems to be on the forefront as the four Texas schools are preparing for an exodus.
Alongside those rumors were rumors that UCA could leave the Southland as well and join the Atlantic Sun.
Alongside the UCA rumors and inevitably losing the Texas schools, the Southland Conference released news that it is engaging with Eastman & Beaudine, Inc., to assist in future planning and membership exploration.
The release quotes Southland commissioner Tom Burnett, saying that “change is good” and “the league’s best days are ahead.”
“Our administrators have recognized the high level of institutional and athletic value they provide, and have further committed to the standard that change is good and the accord that the league’s best days are ahead. In partnering with a renowned organization like Eastman & Beaudine, along with the unified commitment put forth by our presidents and athletic directors, we are heartened by the thought that our membership is inspired to continue building a successful future for themselves and the Southland Conference. We greatly anticipate a thorough process that identifies potential members that provide great strategic value, superior academic and strong athletic profiles, and an important geographic fit to our organization,” Burnett’s full statement read.
Eastman & Beaudine’s CEO and president Bob Beaudine said, “We are honored to serve the Southland Conference in this exciting time of re-imagination and growth,” added Beaudine. “Having known Commissioner Burnett and several of the presidents for years, it is no surprise they are using this opportunity to take decisive action to ensure that the best days are still ahead for the student-athletes and member institutions of this storied conference.”
With the writing on the wall, there is definitely change coming to the Southland Conference, which after the Texas schools leave and UCA exits, that will leave the SLC with Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, Nicholls, McNeese State, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana.
The SLC will also hold its six-member minimum for the automatic bid for the postseason.
The SLC last added teams in 2013 when ACU, HBU, UIW and non-football playing school University of New Orleans were admitted to the league.
The move to add UIW and New Orleans added the San Antonio and New Orleans market that already had a footprint in Houston with nearby Sam Houston State playing in Huntsville, Texas, and Lamar playing in nearby Beaumont, Texas, while adding HBU to the Houston market.
However, many believe adding Houston Baptist and UIW may be in part a reason why the previously mentioned five schools are looking to exit the conference, along with financial issues potentially in the Louisiana schools.
Many see those schools as not able to upgrade facilities to Division I, as HBU plays in a basketball arena that seems to be smaller than area high schools.
And, the potential to move to the FBS makes the move obvious for the Texas schools.
Nothing official has been announced, but it seems it’s looming.
The Log Cabin will continue to follow this story as it develops.