New Mexico State and Sam Houston will no longer be part of the WAC beginning in July, 2023 according to reports. The Aggies and Bearkats will join a revamped Conference USA July 1, 2023.
Sources: Liberty, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston and New Mexico State are expected to be formally added to Conference USA today, with an announcement planned this afternoon.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 5, 2021
Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston & Jacksonville State are officially members of Conference USA, sources told @ActionNetworkHQ. Official announcement expected later today. Schools will begin in league in 2023 https://t.co/gqp95A9Ryn
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) November 5, 2021
Along with New Mexico State and Sam Houston, Liberty and Jacksonville State will be the newest members of Conference USA. All four schools join Louisiana Tech, UTEP and Florida International after Conference USA lost 11 of its 14 members in the past month.
Both New Mexico State and Sam Houston are expected to join in all sports. The Aggies football program has had one winning season since 2003. New Mexico State finished 7-6 in 2017 and won the Arizona Bowl in dramatic fashion, 26-20, over Utah State in overtime. The basketball programs have had much more success. New Mexico State men’s basketball has represented the current WAC at the NCAA tournament five times since 2013-14. In 2019-20, the NCAA tournament was cancelled due to COVID but NMSU was the favorite to represent the WAC once again. The New Mexico State women’s team has had some success over the years. Brooke Atkinson led the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19.
New Mexico State moving to Conference USA also renews a conference rivalry with UTEP. The two schools have played each other regularly in most sports while in different conferences. Now the games will mean even more. So it was no surprise that New Mexico State was making the change.
Spoke with WAC Comish Jeff Hurd, who said NMSU hasn't formally notified the conference of an intent to leave. But did say he's long known NMSU's intention to join FBS conference and that exit fees were "not exorbitant,"https://t.co/j42ADQ8zxE
— Jason Groves (@JPGroves) November 4, 2021
Sam Houston, on the flip side, is still a head scratcher. The facilities are not up to par with the FBS level. The fan attendance isn’t where it needs to be. And the financial backing may be an issue. Conference USA is actually requiring a $2 million entry fee. The big question for Sam Houston is, where will that money come from? It’s necessarily a bad move. Revenue from competing at the FBS level will be more significant. Exposure will also be a little better. But, there is a lot of investment that will have to happen if the Bearkats are to compete at the FBS level. One disappointing factor is the Battle of the Piney Woods won’t mean as much now that Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin are in different conferences.
What’s Next for the WAC?
The WAC just named Jeff Hurd’s replacement on Wednesday. American Athletic Conference associate commissioner Brian Thornton will take over for Hurd beginning in January. Along with that, discussions with McNeese State and Incarnate Word are ongoing right now. Nothing official has come from this although there have been reports that McNeese State received an invitation. According to sources, the WAC is not in a rush right now. Championship season for Fall sports is happening, the new commissioner search was just completed, and it takes time to get the realignment process in order.