ACU is expected to be one of several new members welcomed to the Western Athletic Conference in an upcoming press conference Thursday.
The announcement will end ACU’s tenure with the Southland Conference since its transition to Div. I in 2013 and as a founding member in 1963.
Several Southland Conference schools, including ACU, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin, are expected to join the WAC as early as July 2021. Southern Utah from the Big Sky is also expected to join the conference.
The WAC was established in 1962 and currently fields 19 sports spanning in seven states with its current nine members.
The move will also mark the return of football to the WAC, which hasn’t occurred since 2012. It’s expected to start at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in 2022 with the goal of moving to the FBS within a decade.
The WAC’s initial FCS league will consist of seven members: ACU, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Southern Utah, Tarleton State and Dixie State.
Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, has expressed the impact the Southland Conference has made to ACU and its athletics.
“The Southland Conference has been an important part of Abilene Christian’s athletic legacy, from our role as a founding member in 1963 and our return in 2013 when we transitioned to Division I,” Schubert said. “Each time, we moved for highly strategic reasons that positioned the university and its student-athletes for optimum success.”
The WAC currently has nine full-time members, including New Mexico State, Utah Valley, Cal Baptist, Chicago State, Dixie State, Grand Canyon, Seattle, Tarleton State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley. It also has 10 affiliate members that play one or more sports in the conference.
With the Southland exit, only six football schools would remain, the minimum number a league can have and receive an automatic bid to the postseason.
“We are happy being in the Southland at this moment,” said McNeese president Dr. Daryl Burckel.
Central Arkansas is also expected to be leaving, but no announcement has been finalized. Some sports media outlets have speculated it will join the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“Those schools are doing what they believe is in the best interests of their institutions,” Burckel said. “We are going to do what is in the best interests of McNeese.”
The WAC will hold a press conference Thursday at 11 a.m. at NRG Center in Houston to make official announcements. It will also be streamed at www.wacdigitalnetwork.com. The ACU Department of Athletics will also hold a press conference Friday.