HOUSTON, Texas -- The worst-kept secret in college sports over the past month was made official Thursday morning in Houston, according to ABC affiliate KTRE.
The Western Athletic Conference officially announced the addition of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Lamar University and Abilene Christian University to the league, giving it 13 schools for 2021.
The added membership of the “Texas 4″ will take place on July 1.
The WAC is currently home to home to New Mexico State, California Baptist, Chicago State, Dixie State, Grand Canyon University, Seattle University, Tarleton State, UT Rio Grande Valley and Utah Valley. Southern Utah will also join the league in 2022, taking it to 14 teams at that time.
This move will also bring back WAC football. The league stopped sponsoring football after the 2012-13 season. The new WAC football league will be home to SFA, Sam Houston, Lamar, Abilene Christian, Tarleton State, Dixie State and later Southern Utah in 2022. Traleton and Dixie are currently considered independents. The conference will play in the Football Championship Division.
New Mexico State will not be in the football league as the Aggies participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision and will remain an independent.
According to a WAC press release, the additions will create a 13-team conference that will be divided into two divisions for team sports other than football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. One division will consist of the Texas-based institutions, while the other division will include New Mexico State along with Southern Utah, Dixie State, Grand Canyon University, California Baptist, Seattle University and Utah Valley.
Officials indicated part of the onus for an expansion to 13 schools is in an effort to gain multiple NCAA Tournament bids in basketball.
“I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement,” said WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd. “The opportunity to bring five quality institutions into the conference, to significantly strengthen the WAC’s national basketball brand and other championship sport profiles, and to bring football back under the WAC umbrella is one that made sense.”