Incarnate Word was set to join the WAC in a week but backtracked and will stay in the Southland Conference. Courtesy Vashaun Newman/UIW Athletics.

UIW Backtracks, Will Not Join the WAC

Eight months after announcing it would join the Western Athletic Conference, Incarnate Word has made a change.

On Friday morning, UIW made the announcement that the Cardinals will not join the WAC. Instead, UIW will remain a member of the Southland Conference.

“In the ever-changing landscape of Division I athletics, change can happen fast, but it has always been our goal to find stability, the best fit and the best opportunities for our student-athletes,” says UIW President Dr. Thomas M. Evans. “Today’s announcement is just another example of putting those interests first. Our decision to remain in the Southland Conference will optimize class time with competition time and time in our community and allow our students to once again excel in all those areas.”

On Nov. 12, 2021, UIW announced it would be joining the Western Athletic Conference. At the time, Evans had a much different outlook on the best interest of the UIW student-athletes.

“A move to the WAC at this time puts our student-athletes in the best position to succeed academically and competitively,” Evans said in a press statement.

UIW Athletic Director Richard Duran was also high on the move to the WAC.

“We are excited to be joining the WAC,” UIW Athletic Director Richard Duran says in his press statement. “This will raise the profile of all our sports teams and give our student-athletes a chance to compete on a different level. We consistently ask our students to be champions in the classroom, the community and in competition. This move will provide them the opportunity to do just that.”

But, on Friday, UIW said that it is recommitting to growing the Southland Conference.

“Ever since I arrived at this university, we have continuously looked to position UIW Athletics for success at the Division I level,” says UIW Athletic Director Richard Duran. “Given the rapid change happening within Division I conferences across the nation, we believe we are best positioned for continued success in the Southland Conference. This will allow our student-athletes to continue to show their talents in the classroom, in the community and in competition.”

With the announcement, the WAC has 14 teams for the 2022-23 school year. Southern Utah and UT-Arlington officially join the WAC at that time. And in 2023-24, the WAC will be down to 11 teams. New Mexico State and Sam Houston leave for Conference USA. And Lamar returns to the Southland Conference.

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  • Now to a degree, this changes the landscape for the WAC. At least the Southland will return back to 10 members and with all but one having football. I wonder if the Southland will return back to 12 schools, even if they find two more D-II callups (either two with football, two without football or a mixed bag).

    Meanwhile, this would put the WAC in a tough predicament in terms of being a multisport conference because they were about to be a 12+ team league before losing New Mexico St. and Sam Houston St. to C-USA for 2023-24. I wonder if the WAC would somehow get another non-football school to return back to 12 members, despite half of the current roster sponsors football while partnering with the OVC with half of its members.

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