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Return of the WAC: WAC reportedly planning Southland Conference raid

Cue up Mark Morrison, because the WAC is back.

As has long been rumored within the industry, the WAC is indeed planning a raid of the Southland Conference. Shehan Jeyarajah of Texas Football reported Thursday that Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian and Lamar are expected to leave the Southland for the WAC as part of the league's plans to return to the football field.

The WAC sponsored football from 1962 to 2012, at one point becoming the gold standard for mid-major football before collapsing under its own weight and eventually being picked over by other leagues.

Now it's the WAC doing the picking, as this move will bring the Southland down to just seven football-playing schools.

Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin had each been Southland members since 1987; Lamar and ACU were both relative newcomers, Lamar joined the league when it revived football in 2011 while ACU joined from Division II in 2013.

The four Southland schools will join Dixie State and Tarleton State -- two Division II call-ups -- while Southern Utah is reportedly planning to leave the Big Sky for the WAC to bring the number up to seven.

New Mexico State would seem to be a top target for further expansion; the Aggies are already WAC members in Olympic sports and stand on uncertain ground in football as an FBS independent. Adding New Mexico State would give the conference a geographic bridge between Utah and Texas.

The move is a boon for Tarleton State, the Stephenville, Texas-based school that's moving up from Division II and instantly gains four new neighbors -- and, in the process, legitimacy in the Texas market.

Anticipated WAC Football Membership
Abilene Christian
Dixie State
Sam Houston State
Southern Utah
Stephen F. Austin
Tarleton State

Losing four schools to the WAC will leave the Southland's football membership an uneven mishmash of Louisiana public schools and Texas privates. Central Arkansas is reportedly on its way to the Atlantic Sun, but we'll leave them in here for now.

Remaining Southland Football Membership
Central Arkansas
Houston Baptist
Incarnate Word
Northwestern State
Southeastern Louisiana

The WAC's play is the continuation of a burgeoning trend in FCS, where the SWAC has essentially hollowed out its former frenemy in the MEAC.