Lamar to rejoin Southland Conference in 2022, one year early

By Kevin Kelley -

The Lamar Cardinals will rejoin the Southland Conference in 2022, one year earlier than previously announced.

Lamar, which departed the Southland Conference for the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) last season, played only one season in the WAC before announcing a return to the Southland Conference in 2023.

However, Lamar has now decided to up that timetable by a year and will rejoin the Southland Conference effective immediately.

“We are very excited to take advantage of this opportunity to make the move to the Southland Conference for the 2022-23 season for all sports,” Lamar Director of Athletics Jeff O’Malley said. “This is the best fit for the future of Lamar University Athletics, our fans and our student-athletes. I would like to thank Commissioner Grant and the leadership of the conference for working with us and providing a chance to join the league immediately.”

O’Malley joined Lamar University as the new Director of Athletics on July 1, 2022.

“We are fired up at the enthusiasm Lamar University is showing in their accelerated return to competition in the Southland,” said Southland Conference Commissioner Chris Grant. “It’s another sign of the impact of our conference’s focus on the student-athlete experience and our truly collaborative approach to leadership that recognizes the unique value of each school. Welcome back, Big Red!”

The Cardinals turned in a 2-9 campaign in their initial WAC season, falling in all seven league contests. Lamar’s lone Division 1 win came in a 17-10, overtime result at Northern Colorado. WAC opponents turned in an average margin of victory of 32.6 points per game against the Cardinals in 2021.

Last November, the UIW Cardinals accepted an invitation to the WAC, but then opted to remain in the Southland Conference with an announcement last month.

As a result of those moves, the Southland Conference will have eight football-playing members in 2022. Lamar and UIW will join Houston Baptist, McNeese, Nicholls, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, and Texas A&M-Commerce.

The Southland Conference, as well as the WAC and likely the ASUN, will now have to issue revised 2022 football schedules following the UIW and Lamar announcements.

Future Lamar Football Schedules

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Comments (7)

Utterly bizarre with the season starting in less than 2 months. Wow!! You have to wonder if Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston St. will follow suit soon.

Lamar State University Athletic & University Administrators, Coaches, Department Staff,

This time your decision to leave the WAC after the July 1, 2022 Deadline for all Conference affiliations really is a complete breach of Contract & Sunbelt like Conference mini-me lack of any ethical business Practices.
You join the crass, lowbrow behavior of ODU Monarchs, Marshall thundering Herd & SM Golden Eagles in their treatment of C-USA in your undermining of your formerly credible Contract with the Western Athletic Conference of 1 Years Notice.
Your Southland Conference is equally deceitful & unprincipled as the Sunbelt Conference whose culture & footprint you mimic in LA & E. TX.

Almost all moves, even those involving an early buy-out from their contractual obligations to a conference, have to be decided before July 1, to be eligible for the following season. This move, happening on July 10th or 11th, is really shady.

I would interpret this a couple of ways.

1. Lamar, and Incarnate Word before, felt a little betrayed by Sam Houston. They all went as a group to the Western Athletic Conference, along with Stephen F. Austin. But when Sam Houston decided to skip directly over the WAC to Conference USA, the others had to have been hurt. It was a group decision to leave the Southland, but Sam Houston was the lynchpin for the WAC as far as a higher-level football program.

2. The Western Athletic Conference doesn’t really care what Lamar does because they don’t see Lamar as having any real value in athletics. After Sam Houston defected, after calling the WAC home for one year, I think they’re giving up on the whole football side of things again.

3. Having Incarnate Word back out, might have been the impetus for #2 above. They still had three of the four Texas schools, with Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian still in tow. But having that cut in half instead, just put them in a position with a couple schools out of their desired geographic footprint.

All this being said, there is going to be another round of realignment coming in the FCS. Either the WAC is going to completely disintegrate, and Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian and Southern Utah will attempt to crawl back to their former conferences or they’re going to pull together a tighter geographically knit conference.

Whether those two Texas schools go back to the Southland or not, if attempting to keep it together is their plan, luring Cal Poly, UC-Davis and Sacramento State from the Big Sky and potentially San Diego from the Pioneer League out of California, should be their first move. Northern Colorado doesn’t seem as fit for the Big Sky and might work better in a new WAC. Northern Arizona could be a candidate as well, namely because of proximity and natural rivalry with Southern Utah.

The WAC has a lot of soul-searching to do.

Pretty much. I wonder if Stephen F. Austin (Sam Houston’s biggest rival) will now want to move up to C-USA to join SHSU. And with BYU leaving the WCC, will Seattle U replace them?
The WAC still has 11 full members for 2023-24, but could have as few as 9 if those 2 aforementioned schools depart. NAU would probably be the best candidate to add as you said earlier, due to their proximity to Utah Tech and Southern Utah.
I don’t see any of the California FCS schools leaving the Big Sky, although many Sac State fans have wanted out of the Big Sky for years, so it’s possible that they could join the Big West, and join the WAC for FB-only. USD is a small, private, Catholic university–they’re not leaving the PFL.

I know San Diego is a stretch, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t or couldn’t be asked. But I agree, very unlikely they ever move to scholarship ball.

Sacramento State is the only one of the three California schools that is a full Big Sky member. Making the move to the Big Sky with UC-Davis and Cal Poly doesn’t seems like an impossibility. Seems more possible if the other two did leave for the WAC, as football members. Nothing is a slam dunk there.

Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona seem like the best candidates for the WAC. UNC, in particular, many fans of other schools don’t seem to like having them in the conference.

Still a lot of moving parts.

As a Cal Poly alum, I wouldn’t want to leave the Big West. I want Sac State to join, but I think there’s some weird contract they have with the Big Sky that prevents them from leaving.