WAC football to return at Football Championship Subdivision level in 2022

By Kevin Kelley -

The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) will reinstate football at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level in 2022, the conference announced on Thursday.

“I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement,” said Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Jeff Hurd, “The opportunity to bring five quality institutions into the conference, to significantly strengthen the WAC’s national basketball brand and other championship sport profiles, and to bring football back under the WAC umbrella is one that made sense.

“The end result could not have been accomplished without the collaboration and shared visions of the WAC’s Board of Directors and the Presidents of the incoming institutions. It not only stabilizes the conference for the future; it also positions it for significant growth and success.”

Five schools are moving to the WAC from other conferences. Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, and Stephen F. Austin State will move from the Southland Conference, while Southern Utah will enter from the Big Sky Conference.

The four Southland schools are “…petitioning the WAC Board of Directors for entry into the conference beginning on July 1, 2021.” If successful, it’s not clear whether these four schools will play in the Southland this fall or compete as FCS Independents for one season.

Two other schools, Dixie State and Tarleton State, will also join the WAC football lineup in 2022. Both schools are current members of the WAC in other sports, but their football programs are both Independents. Both schools will be playing their first season at the FCS level this spring.

The WAC is also anticipating that “…at least one more football-playing member will be added, but a timetable has not yet been established.”

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), also a member of the WAC, has submitted a letter of intent to start a football program within five years, according to TexasFootball.com. The report states that UTRGV is “targeting the 2023 season” but has “committed to begin the program by 2024.”

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Comments (20)

I actually think it’s worth it for them to hold it out a few more years. I can see at least one school leaving the MWC in the next round of realignment for greener pastures in a few years, and NMSU would likely be at the top of that list, or would be a shoe-in to replace a school in CUSA if they were to move up.

Yep, it’s a good safety net for NMSU. They can keep hoping an FBS conference will rescue them, knowing that there’s an FCS home waiting for them if they do give up on FBS. They didn’t have that FCS safety net until now because of their remote location.

I don’t see that happening. I actually think it’s more likely that they will join the Mountain West conference for all sports.

I actually don’t see that happening. I think it’s more likely that they will join the Mountain West conference for all sports.

Sometimes it is not about travel, but about building a better brand with another conference and create better competition. You add Stephen F. Austin, Southern Utah, and Sam Houston State with a conference that already has New Mexico State, Grand Canyon, and Cal Baptist. This is gonna be a really strong basketball conference here in a few years

They’ll probably join the Big South for football like the other ASun schools like Kennesaw State, North Alabama, etc.

Read an article that the ASun is trying to go FBS with football with a 6 team conference:

1. Kennesaw State (already ASun in other sports)
2. North Alabama (already ASun in other sports)
3. Liberty (already ASun in other sports)

4. Central Arkansas (just joined ASun)

5. Eastern Kentucky (OVC/just missed going FBS when Sun Belt expanded and got passed up by Coastal)

6. Jacksonville State (OVC)

That would be interesting as most of those schools are already near the top of the FCS, & Liberty has already proven they can compete at the FBS level. However, I think they need to get a couple more football schools to get to at least 8. It would be interesting if the ASUN & WAC both moved up (as the WAC has also been rumored to be interested in getting back to the FBS level). In that scenario, the American could possibly become a power conference to even it out at 6 each, Power 6 & Group of 6.

Correct, Liberty will stay FBS, but if the idea is for ASun to go FBS, Liberty would already be in the conference. At no point did I say Liberty would drop.

I think you conflated the six-team conference with going FBS. They want six teams now to have an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. At least that’s the way I read it.

Moving to FBS I would imagine they would have 8-10 by that time, including Liberty.

I wouldn’t be shocked if NMSU drops down to FCS and join the WAC full time soon.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle and Cal Baptist leave the WAC as the geographic footprint moves east. Possibly join the WCC or Big West?

So it would appear that the 7 football schools will be:
SUU, Dixie St, ACU, Tarleton St, SFA, Lamar, SHSU, and potentially NMSU and UTRGV as 8th & 9th members.