Skip to main content

Re-launched last fall, the WAC has already lost three members

Incarnate Word is the latest WAC member to undertake a move of re-realignment.

The WAC played its first season in a decade last fall, and the revived version of the league may already be on life support.

On Friday, Incarnate Word it will not join the WAC as previously announced and will instead remain in the Southland Conference.

"In the ever-changing landscape of Division I athletics, change can happen fast, but it has always been our goal to find stability, the best fit and the best opportunities for our student-athletes," says UIW President Dr. Thomas M. Evans. "Today's announcement is just another example of putting those interests first. Our decision to remain in the Southland Conference will optimize class time with competition time and time in our community and allow our students to once again excel in all those areas."

The WAC's rebirth was centered around Texas-based institutions: pulling Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Lamar, Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian from the Southland and Tarleton State up from Division II.

But one season in, three schools have already abandoned that plan.

Sam Houston was part of the realignment tidal wave created by the meteor splash of Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC; the Bearkats are set to join Conference USA, which itself is forced to reboot after losing over half its membership to the American or the Sun Belt. The 2021 WAC champions will play a second and final season in the conference this fall before joining C-USA in 2023

Also, Lamar announced in April it will re-join the Southland in 2023. The Cardinals were founding SLC members, played in the WAC in 2021, but will be back after this coming season. “We are grateful for our time in the WAC, but we are thrilled for our return to the Southland Conference fueled by the league’s combination of dynamic leadership, membership stability, regional rivalries, and vision for the future,” Lamar president Jaime Taylor said.

While the WAC has time to prepare for Sam Houston and Lamar's impending departures, UIW's defection leaves the conference in a lurch. The Cardinals played in the Southland in 2021 but were set to join this fall -- with a WAC football schedule already set. Friday's announcement indicates that will not happen; UIW was set to formally join the WAC a week from today. 

Coming off its most successful year on and off the playing field, the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) has recommitted to continue its Division I athletics program in the Southland Conference. UIW had accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) effective July 1, 2022. UIW has informed the WAC that it will not proceed with becoming a member.

UIW football will play its first season under head coach GJ Kinne this fall after losing head coach Eric Morris to the offensive coordinator job at Washington State. Morris led the Cardinals to a 10-3 mark and the first FCS playoff win in school history last fall.

Losing Incarnate Word puts Stephen F. Austin even further on an island within the WAC. The Nacodgoches, Texas, based institution's nearest neighbors are Tarleton State and Abilene Christian, half a day's drive away. The rest of the conference is in Utah. In the Southland, SFA would be in the center of the map. (The WAC has a scheduling alliance with the Atlantic Sun Conference in football.)

It remains to be seen if UIW's defection changes the thinking on SFA's campus, obviously...

... but losing three Texas schools should inspire a round of "Hey, you good?" chats with each of the WAC's remaining Texas members.