Ten years after the Western Athletic Conference stopped sponsoring football the league has finally made its return. Rumblings all over social media for the past few months have finally been made official. WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd made the announcement at the NRG Center in Houston, Texas this morning. Hurd formally unveiled four Texas schools— Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin. The name the “Texas Four” was a trend on social media for months before this announcement.
Hurd also announced the joining of Southern Utah University. The four Texas schools are currently members of the Southland Conference, while Southern Utah joins from the Big Sky. The original plan was for all of the new schools to enter together July 1, 2022. But that all but changed Tuesday, Hurd said. The four Texas schools decided to speed the process up. The “Texas Four” intend to be full fledged members of the WAC by the summer of 2021, leaving the Southland Conference. This should occur by July 1, 2021. Southern Utah will leave the Big Sky conference after the 2021 season and join the six schools in 2022.
The current WAC members are Grand Canyon University, California Baptist, Dixie State, New Mexico State, Utah Valley, Seattle, Tarleton State and UT Rio Grande Valley. Tarleton State (Texas) and Dixie State (Utah) were added to the WAC this year. Chicago State and Kansas City will not be part of the new WAC. Kansas City is a current member of the Summit League. Chicago State is exploring their options for a new conference. UT Rio Grande Valley submitted a letter of intent to begin a Division I college football program. Dixie State and Tarleton State are currently transitioning from DII to the DI level. They will be considered “re-classifying Division I members” until 2024.
The new conference is more economically sustainable. The additions of Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin bring the Battle of the Piney Woods to the WAC. The WAC will compete in the FCS level.
The WAC, which currently sponsors 10 women’s sports and nine men’s sports, was an FBS conference from 1962 to 2012 before dropping football as teams left for other leagues.
The new-look WAC, right now, officially has seven teams for football:
- Stephen F. Austin (Texas) (Current Southland member)
- Sam Houston (Texas) (Current Southland member)
- Abilene Christian (Texas) (Current Southland member)
- Lamar (Texas) (Current Southland member)
- Southern Utah (Current Big Sky member)
- Tarleton State (Texas) (Current WAC member transitioning from D2)
- Dixie State (Utah) (Current WAC member transitioning from DII)
- Sam Houston St.
- Stephen F. Austin
- Abilene Christian
- Tarleton St.
- California Baptist
- Dixie St.
- Grand Canyon
- New Mexico St.
- Southern Utah
- Utah Valley