NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - With SFA joining the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), the big question becomes what is the endgame for the football program?
The conference sponsored football from 1962 to 2012. The league went away as a victim of football realignment, with members going to the Mountain West and PAC 12. The restart of the WAC will be different.
The plan is for the “Texas 4″ to join up with fellow WAC members Tarleton State and Dixie State to form the first six teams in the league for the 2021 fall season. Southern Utah will leave the Big Sky conference after the 2021 season and join the six schools in 2022.
Current WAC member UT-Rio Grande Valley is exploring the option of adding football to their list of available sports programs.
“Conference expansion creates a new path forward, so we’re committed to exploring that process,” said UTRGV President Guy Bailey ins a statement. “The only commitment we can make at this time is to explore the process of adding football.”
UTRGV would have to add a women’s sport if the football plan does work out.
The talks of SFA joining the WAC started about six months ago according to SFA President Scott Gordon.
“We looked at a variety of opportunities and options,” Gordon said. “When you do that you converge on a place that makes the most sense for your institution. In this case the WAC made the most sense. It is about how can we elevate our university. How can we generate more revenue. How can we look at lowering some our our costs. This made sense.
When Ryan Ivey took over as the SFA Athletic Director he had a goal of becoming the premier mid-major program in the nation. With the success of men’s basketball pulling off historic upsets and being a tournament caliber team, volleyball dominating the league the past three years and bowling winning two national title, Ivey felt football could be the next big change on campus to get to that status.
The ultimate hope is that the WAC could one day move back to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The seven schools that will be the new WAC in 2022 all play at the Football Championship Subdivision. WAC member New Mexico State plays an an independent member of the FBS. A move to the FBS could bring the Aggies back into the league they first joined in 2005.
“We are doing this in a very methodical way,” Ivey said. “We are not just jumping into something that none of us are prepared for. It is going to be very competitive in the FCS landscape. From a recruiting standpoint our guys get to say, ‘Hey we started this league. We brought it back. We get to wear the patch that some of those great players in the past wore.”
To be a member of the FBS there are six main requirements:
- Programs must sponsor a minimum of 16 varsity intercollegiate sports with a minimum six sports involving all male teams or mixed teams (males and females), and a minimum of eight varsity intercollegiate teams involving all female teams. Institutions may use up to two emerging sports to satisfy the required eight varsity intercollegiate sports involving all female teams.
- Schedule and play at least 60 percent of its football contests against members of Football Bowl Subdivision. Institutions shall schedule and play at least five regular season home contests against FBS opponents.
- Average at least 15,000 in actual or paid attendance for all home football contests over a rolling two-year period.
- Provide an average of at least 90 percent of the permissible maximum number of overall football grants-in-aid per year over a rolling two-year period.
- Annually offer a minimum of 200 athletics grants-in-aid or expend at least four million dollars on grants-in-aid to student-athletes in athletics programs.
Ivey said the department is able to meet all of those requirements right now except the average of 15,000 fans for home games. The university is looking at ways to increase their average attendance. It would also need to take place at the other member schools as well.
According to the NCAA, In 2019, SFA had an average attendance for the year of 8,324 in four games. Sam Houston’s average was 4,878 in six games. Lamar’s attendance average totaled out to 7,173 in six games. Abilene Christians average for six games was 7,882 for six games. Southern Utah had an average attendance of 4,797 for five games. Dixie State had an average attendance of 3,791 for six games.
“We are not going to put the cart before the horse,” SFA head football coach Colby Carthel said. “That is part of the move that the “Texas 4″ made. These are four institutions that have some goals and aspirations. There is going to be some things to look at with financial commitments but we are in a place now to make that move where we were not in the past.”