Incarnate Word To The WAC: College Football Conference Realignment Tracker

James Madison Dukes

Incarnate Word and the Western Athletic Conference announced on Nov. 12 that the program would join the WAC for the 2022-23 athletic season.

The Cardinals are the latest Southland Conference member to make the move to the WAC. Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin joined for the 2021-22 athletic season. Sam Houston recently announced that it would be moving to Conference USA, and hence up to FBS in football, in 2023.

The Cardinals give the WAC another FCS-ready program for football, meaning that in 2020 the league will have eight FCS teams, though not all of them will be fully eligible for the postseason. But, UIW’s addition, along with Southern Utah’s move from the Big Sky to the WAC next season, should give the WAC enough members on its own to receive an FCS automatic playoff berth.


Nov. 6: James Madison accepted the invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference on Friday, with an official announcement coming on Nov. 6.

The Dukes are the latest team to join the Belt, giving the league 14 football teams. JMU needed approval from the Virginia state legislature because they wanted to move up from FCS in football to FBS.

The Dukes could join the league as early as July 1, 2023.


Nov. 5: Conference USA and its four new members finally agreed on membership, as New Mexico State, Sam Houston, Liberty and Jacksonville State agreed to join Conference USA.

Liberty and New Mexico State are independent in football (both are in other conferences for all of their other sports). Sam Houston is a member of the Western Athletic Conference. Jacksonville State is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

All four schools are planning to join C-USA for the 2023-24 athletic year.


Nov. 3: McNeese State and Incarnate Word are reportedly set to move to the Western Athletic Conference, per Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel.

The WAC is dealing with the potential move of two of its schools to Conference USA, New Mexico State and Sam Houston. NMSU is a long-time member. Sam Houston joined the league this year. Conference USA is also considering inviting Liberty and Jacksonville State to the league.

If the report is accurate, then McNeese and UIW would join the ‘Texas 4’ in the WAC — Sam Houston (assuming they stay), Stephen F. Austin, Lamar and Abilene Christian.

As of Nov. 5, nothing was official.


Oct. 31: The Marshall Thundering Herd are the latest to agree to join the Sun Belt Conference, as the Thundering Herd and the Sun Belt will hold a press conference on Nov. 1 to make the move official.

The Sun Belt released Marshall’s decision on Oct. 30 via its web site.

Marshall will be a member of the Sun Belt no later than July 1, 2023. The Thundering Herd will give the league 13 teams for football. James Madison is rumored to be considering membership in the Sun Belt as well.


Oct. 28: UConn, Liberty and New Mexico State appear to be the primary targets of Conference USA in realignment. Per The Athletic’s Chris Vannini, the three schools are negotiating with C-USA. NMSU and Liberty would join in all sports, while UConn would join in just football so it could retain its membership in Big East basketball.


Oct. 27: The Old Dominion Monarchs have signed a deal to join the Sun Belt Conference by 2023.

The move likely will be announced on Thursday. But, the reported agreement would mark the eighth program to leave Conference USA in this current spate of conference reshuffling.

The Sun Belt officially added Southern Miss earlier on Tuesday. The Sun Belt will likely be a 14-team conference for football in 2023. McMurphy reported that Marshall, another Conference USA member, and James Madison, one of the top programs in FCS, will likely join the SBC.

The target date for ODU, Southern Miss, Marshall and JMU to join the Sun Belt would be July 1, 2023.


Oct. 26: Southern Miss and the Sun Belt Conference announced on Tuesday that the Golden Eagles would join the league no later than the 2023-24 athletic year.

Southern Miss is currently a member of Conference USA. But the Golden Eagles moved into the conference realignment derby after six Conference USA members announced they were leaving the league for the American Athletic Conference last week.

The announcement moves the Sun Belt’s football membership to 11 teams. The conference may not be done expanding yet, but nothing is official.

Even though the Sun Belt is a younger football conference than Conference USA, the league decided not to ‘wait in line’ to make a move. By joining the Sun Belt, USM joins a league that is more geographically aligned with it.

Our complete College Football America realignment tracker for all divisions is at the bottom of this story.


Oct. 18: Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel reported on Oct. 18 that the American Athletic Conference is preparing to discuss conference expansion this week, and that they’re expecting at least a half-dozen team to apply for membership.

The AAC made that official a few days later, inviting FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA, Rice and UAB to join the league. All six teams accepted the invitation.

This would be the AAC’s first reaction to losing Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to the Big 12 last month.


Sept. 29: The Texas A&M-Commerce Lions made it official on Tuesday, as they announced that they were moving to Division I and joining the Southland Conference.

The Lions, based in Commerce, Texas, will become the seventh member of the Southland Conference and would join the league for the 2022-23 athletic season. The Lions will go through a four-year transition to Division I at the same time.

TAMU-Commerce is the first new member the SLC has taken in since five of its members moved to different conferences for the 2021-22 athletic season — Central Arkansas to the Atlantic Sun, and Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin to the Western Athletic Conference.

The Lions are currently members of the Lone Star Conference.

The 2021 College Football America Yearbook features more than 900 college football teams from the United States and Canada in more than 250 striking, full-color pages. That includes every team from the NCAA (FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III), NAIA, NJCAA, CCCAA and U Sports (Canada). It also includes updates on club football, one-year postgraduate prep/sports academies and Mexican college football, along with dozens of action shots and stadium photos taken by the CFA staff.


Sept. 17: The Atlantic Sun announced that Austin Peay would move from the Ohio Valley Conference to the A-Sun, boosting the A-Sun’s football numbers to six for the 2022 season. That will give the A-Sun six football members for the 2022 season — Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, Jacksonville State and North Alabama.


Sept. 10: The Big 12 announced that it would be adding four programs — BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. BYU should join the conference in 2023, while the other three programs —currently members of the American Athletic Conference — should join in 2024.


July 29: The SEC approved the membership of Texas and Oklahoma for the 2025-26 athletic season during a meeting of its conference membership.

The Longhorns and Sooners are members of the Big 12 Conference and cannot move to the SEC before the 2025-26 season due to its grant-of-media rights agreement with the rest of the Big 12.


College Football Realignment/Conference Changes

FBS

American Athletic: Losses – Cincinnati, Houston, UCF (June 30, 2024) Additions: FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA, Rice and UAB (July 1, 2023).

Big 12: Losses — Oklahoma, Texas (June 30, 2025); Additions: BYU (July 1, 2023), Cincinnati, Houston, UCF (July 1, 2024).

Conference USA: Losses – FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Southern Miss, UTSA, Rice, UAB, Old Dominion, Marshall (June 30, 2023); Additions: Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston (July 1, 2023).

SEC: Additions — Oklahoma, Texas (July 1, 2025).

Sun Belt: Additions — Southern Miss (July 1, 2023); Old Dominion (July 1, 2023), Marshall (July 1, 2023); James Madison (July 1, 2023).

Independents: Losses — BYU (June 30, 2023 – note BYU plays the rest of its sports in the West Coast Conference); Liberty (June 30, 2023); New Mexico State (June 30, 2023).

FCS

Atlantic Sun: Losses — Jacksonville State (June 30, 2023); Additions — Austin Peay, Kennesaw State, North Alabama (July 1, 2022) — Note: A-Sun will field its first full season of football in 2022 with Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State, which are playing as part of the A-Sun-WAC Challenge in 2021.

Big Sky: Losses — Southern Utah (June 30, 2022).

Big South: Losses — Kennesaw State, North Alabama (June 30, 2022).

Colonial Athletic — James Madison (July 30, 2023)

Ohio Valley: Losses — Austin Peay (June 30, 2022).

Southland: Additions — Texas A&M-Commerce (July 1, 2022).

Western Athletic: Losses — Sam Houston (June 30, 2023); Additions — Southern Utah (July 1, 2022).

Division II

Lone Star: Losses — Texas A&M-Commerce (June 30, 2022).

South Atlantic: Additions — Barton (July 1, 2022), Erskine (July 1, 2022), Anderson (July 1, 2025).

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: Additions — Edward Waters (2021, approved on July 17).

Division III

Eastern Collegiate Football Conference: Losses: SUNY-Maritime (June 30, 2023).

NEWMAC: Additions: SUNY-Maritime (July 1, 2023).

Old Dominion Athletic Conference: Additions: Averett (July 1, 2022).

USA South Athletic Conference: Losses: Averett (June 30, 2022).

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