HOUSTON – The Western Athletic Conference held a press conference at NRG Stadium today where they announced the addition of five new member schools. Abilene Christian University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, Stephen F. Austin State University and Southern Utah University will all be making the jump to the WAC.
The announcement also came with long speculated news that Chicago State would be leaving the conference. The Cougars have announced that they will be departing the WAC on June 30, 2022. That would then set up the conference with 13 member schools.
The conference also made the announcement that they will be launching football starting in 2022 and will compete at the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), with hopes to make the jump to Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) later down the road. 7 of the 13 conference members will be competing in football once the 2022 season rolls around.
Seattle U has announced that it has no plans, now or in the future, to add football as a sport.
The addition of football will bring to 20 (10 men’s and 10 women’s) the number of sports in which the WAC will sponsor championships. Divisional play only will be held for baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s soccer and women’s soccer with championship tournaments held at the conclusion of each of the conference seasons.
Men’s and women’s basketball will feature both divisional and crossover play with the number of conference games to be played still to be determined. The conference’s tournament will remain in Las Vegas.
What stands out most about these announcements is the location of the incoming schools. Four of the five schools (Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin) are in Texas, with Southern Utah being, of course, in Utah. This causes Seattle University to be a bit of an outlier inside the conference.
Looking at the conference map, Seattle U will be apart of the newly formed ‘West’ division of the WAC. Even with the benefit of mostly playing teams in that division, the Redhawks closest opponent would be Utah Valley. This takes away any chance of SU having a natural rival in the conference as opposed to many of the other teams. It also means that Seattle U will rack up the most miles when it comes to away games and matches.
When the Redhawks made the jump back to Division I play, they wanted to rejoin the West Coast Conference as that was their original home but were turned down. The Big West and Big Sky also declined entry to SU and it was only when the WAC lost nearly all of their members in the conference realignment that they reached out to Seattle. Geographically and history wise, the WCC would be the ideal conference with the Big Sky coming in a close second.
For now, the Redhawks will continue to battle in the WAC and will have five new schools to compete with.
Russell is the Content Director for the Eli Network. He studied broadcast journalism at Eastern Oregon and North Dakota State University. Mostly covers soccer and basketball in the Seattle area and is the current play-by-play voice for Seattle Redhawks basketball. You can follow him @brussbrwn.