Lamar accepts bid to join WAC
Published 12:07 am Saturday, January 16, 2021
Lamar University officially made the jump from the Southland Conference to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Thursday.
Officials made the announcement at NRG Stadium in Houston.
While all sports will make the move, Memorial head football coach and athletic director Brian Morgan said that the change seems to be move to benefit basketball. Morgan was on the Lamar football coaching staff from 2014-2016.
“From the outside, it looks like a move for basketball,” he said. “It seems like a basketball conference, unless they are looking for more schools. Without being there and knowing the ins and outs. I don’t know how great it is for a fan base that you have a school that is 45 minutes up the road that you should be playing every year and should be your conference rival.”
Morgan said that from a fan’s perspective, he doesn’t believe there will be much interest to see Lamar play teams from the west coast.
“If you’re playing McNeese or something, at least there is proximity,” he said. “Who knows? I might be the dumbest guy in the world.”
The original plan was for LU to transition into the WAC July 1, 2022, but the remaining Southland Conference members exercised their ability to speed up the exit of the four Texas institutions, effective June 30, 2021, one year ahead of the previously planned time. As such, the four Texas schools are petitioning the WAC Board of Directors for entry into the conference beginning on July 1, 2021. At this time, Southern Utah is still expected to move into the WAC on the originally scheduled July 1, 2022 date.
“While we have a high regard for the Southland and have enjoyed the time we have spent in the league, Lamar University has decided to join the Western Athletic Conference,” Lamar president Kenneth Evans said.
“As a result of the expansion of the WAC and because our close rivals are joining the league, it simply makes sense, individually, and collectively for the whole group, that Lamar University join this increasingly competitive conference. The WAC has been very successful, and we’re excited to be part of a group of schools with growing enrollments across the broader western states.”
LU will make the transition to the WAC along with current Southland members Abilene Christian, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State, as well as Southern Utah from the Big Sky Conference.
The addition of LU and the four other schools will bring the WAC’s total membership up to 13 schools, which includes California Baptist, Dixie State, Grand Canyon, New Mexico State, Seattle, Tarleton State, UT Rio Grande Valley and Utah Valley.
The addition of the four Texas schools will give the WAC a six-team Texas Division to go along with the six other Far West league schools. This concept was created with the eventual formation of a six-team FCS conference, with plans for future expansion.
“This is a truly historic day for Lamar University, our students, fans and alumni,” Athletic Director Marco Born said. “I would like to thank Dr. Evans for his vision and leadership throughout this whole process, and I would also like to thank WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd, and his staff and WAC Board of Directors for welcoming us with open arms.
“The Western Athletic Conference’s footprint expands from Southeast Texas all the way to the Pacific Coast. This move provides us with a unique opportunity to expand our brand to an even larger audience. Lamar University has a very rich tradition, both athletically and academically, and I feel we will add to an already strong league. In addition to the move, we are excited to be able to continue some of our rivalries with several other Southland schools.”
The move to the WAC ends a successful affiliation with the Southland Conference for nearly five decades. The Cardinals originally joined the league in 1963-64, and after a brief hiatus rejoined the Southland in 1998-99. During that time, Cardinal fans were witness to 109 regular-season championships across LU’s 17 varsity sports.