WAC Strengthens Basketball With Latest Expansion
The Western Athletic Conference officially announced today that it will add five institutions for the start of the 2022-23 athletic season. The five membership invitations issued by the WAC's Board of Directors to Abilene Christian University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, Southern Utah University and Stephen F. Austin State University were officially accepted. All five new schools will join the conference on July 1st, 2022.
"I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement," said WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd in the official release. "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."
In addition, Chicago State will no longer be affiliated with the WAC following the 2021-22 academic year. When Missouri-Kansas City left the league last year, it no longer made Chicago State's membership geographically feasible. CSU had been in the WAC since 2013, when the conference added six schools.
The latest expansion will strengthen the WAC's basketball league and it will also give them 7 full-time members that play or will play football in FCS. Men's and women's basketball will feature both divisional and crossover play. New Mexico State will be grouped with Dixie State, Grand Canyon, California Baptist, Seattle, and Utah Valley. "I think you guys have seen the proposed divisions, you know, the West and the Southwest right now they have us in the West, even though that has not been set in stone that certainly looks like what it's going to be," New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said in a conference call today.
The addition of men's basketball programs like Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and Abilene Christian will boost the WAC. "You know, there was a time where just a few years ago we were 14 and we were 16," Moccia added. "So I think with these additions specifically Abilene Christian and of course, Stephen F. Austin, that's going to raise the men's basketball profile up significantly."
Despite the WAC's return to football, Moccia said that the Aggies have no plans to leave FBS as an independent. "You know, we're an independent now but that's where we are going to stay. You know, we're scheduled out very robustly through 2025, 2026 so our schedules are stacked."