College movement close to home
By Jim Gazzolo
Sources close to the university have confirmed that McNeese State officials are in Denver today to meet with the Western Athletic Conference.
The meeting comes just shy of four months after five teams left the Southland Conference for two other Football Championship Subdivision leagues. Four schools from Texas, Lamar, Abilene Christian, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin, joined the WAC at the end of last spring’s seasons. Central Arkansas moved to the Atlantic Sun Conference at the same time.
First tweeted by Collegiate Consulting, the two sides are said to have mutual interest. It has also been reported their could be interest for McNeese in the Sun Belt as well, as programs from around the country look for options.
McNeese is the longest member of the Southland Conference by 15 years, having joined the league in 1972. That news breaks just hours before the SLC is set to expand itself. According to other sources, Texas A&M University-Commerce will join the Southland Tuesday.
Dan Wolken, a national columnist at USATODAYSports first broke the news in a tweet.
Commerce will become the seventh football-playing member of the league and ninth overall as early as 2022, moving up from the Division II level. That is, of course, if nobody else bolts. Commerce’s football website posted this message:
“Texas A&M University-Commerce will be holding public events in Commerce and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex on Tuesday, September 28, related to a special announcement which will have significant impact on the institution and its intercollegiate athletics program.”
Burnett said in August that he was looking to add teams as early as possible. Talk quickly turned to both TAM-Commerce and its rival Midwestern State.
So far there are no reports of Midwestern State being offered a spot in the Southland.
“We are glad to get them,” McNeese State President Dr. Daryl Burckel said of Commerce. “I think they play a good brand of football and are strong in other sports as well.”
Burckel is currently serving a two-year term as chair of a presidential group leading the Southland’s expansion and future.
“We are hoping when others see them coming and what we are trying to do they will also take a look,” Burckel said.
None of that talk about a possible McNeese move is slowing Burckel from making changes on behalf of the SLC.
“I need to make sure the Southland is in as strong a position as possible,” Burckel said. “We want to make sure that if we want to live here the Southland is in the strongest position it can be in.”
Burnett said the Southland would respond after losing schools five schools. At first the SLC wanted to lure other FCS programs into the fold, but now it seems getting Division II programs to move up is more likely.
The last time the Southland expanded it took three Division II football programs, Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian and Houston Baptist in 2013.
“I’m glad the Southland was able to add a quality member in Texas A&M Commerce,” said McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “They have been extremely successful in a lot of sports recently and will ad depth and quality to our league.”
TAMC, formerly known as East Texas State, won a Division II national championship as recently as 2017. It also claimed an NAIA title in 1972. A member of the Lone Star Conference, the Lions have posted a 539-426-30 record and 23 league titles in its history.