Lamar accepts bid to join Western Athletic Conference
Published 11:31 am Thursday, January 14, 2021
BEAUMONT, Texas – Following a vote by the Texas State University System Board of Regents Lamar University has accepted an invitation to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) announced University President Dr. Kenneth Evans Thursday morning.
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,” said Dr. Evans. “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 be making 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,” said LU Director of Athletics Marco Born. “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,” added Born.
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.
“I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement,” said Hurd. “The opportunity to bring five quality institutions into the conference, to bring football back under the WAC umbrella and at the same time significantly strengthen basketball and other conference sports is one that is easy to embrace.
“The end result could not have been accomplished without the collaboration and shared visions of the WAC’s Board of Directors and the Presidents of the incoming institutions. It not only stabilizes the conference for the future; it also positions it for significant growth and success,” added Hurd.
Preparing to embark on its sixth decade of excellence, the WAC was established in July of 1962. The league currently crowns champions in 19 different sports (nine male and 10 female sports).