The Blitz: Realignment talk dominates FCS media days; Rams sign former Texas A&M-Commerce QB

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The main topic at each FCS conference media day last week centered around realignment. Shocking, right? However, realignment has been the main discussion since the “Texas Four” departed the Southland for the WAC before last season. I would argue that this realignment began with Tarleton’s move from the Lone Star Conference to the WAC in 2020 and Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State) leaving the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for the WAC.

Over the last month, the landscape has changed drastically for the WAC and the Southland. First, UIW decided to forego a move to the WAC from the Southland, and Lamar followed by moving back to the Southland a year early.

So, where does this leave the WAC? Who better to answer that question than WAC Commissioner Brian Thornton, who is focusing on creative ways to continue to receive an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.

"The traditional conference models are (becoming) a thing of the past," Thornton said. "I think it's important to have a healthy amount of football programs. We have our ASUN partnership which creates tremendous quality and quantity, and that's something we'll continue to capitalize (on). We're already working with the ASUN on a 2023 schedule and beyond."

"We're always going to seek out opportunities for great fits," Thornton said. "In recent years, we've tried to make sure our geography makes sense and make sure our competitive balance makes sense. It's constantly our goal to continue to grow, and we want to make sure we have the right programs and not just a certain number."

The Southland is now in a significant position of strength after being able to keep UIW, bring Lamar back, and add Texas A&M-Commerce from the LSC for this season.

"We're going to focus on what we can control," Grant said. "We want to ensure that we can maintain the stability (for the ten current members), but at the same time, my phone is on 24/7. I think I've proven that we're going to be aggressive. We're going to look at members that make sense. We're not looking to add just to be a superconference of any sort because it doesn't benefit us as much as it does some of our Power 5 colleagues.

"Hopefully, (we're) a gas tank conference. We want to make sure we know the resources we're working with, and we're not spending that getting on charter flights left and right for conference games. We want to make sure grandma, grandpa, significant others, and family can make every game (and) every event, and it'll be a gas tank there and a gas tank home."

Meanwhile, the SWAC is currently in the strongest position of the three conferences. Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland gave his thoughts on the possibility of combining with other HBCU conferences to create a “super conference,” as has been rumored.

"My first thought is that the SWAC is already a super conference," McClelland said. "We have every major Division I (HBCU) school from Texas to Florida. When you look at what the Big Ten has done and what the SEC has done, they've taken a look at institutions that fit their profile, and that can enhance their conference. Well, we did that two years ago with FAMU (Florida A&M) and Bethune-Cookman.

"We're not going to expand for the sake of expanding. We get calls, and we field calls from institutions, (and) we put together a sustainability committee that's made up of presidents and people within our membership. We're going to be on the front end of whatever goes on. There are a lot of things that (we) have to look into. We don't want to travel 2,000 miles to play a volleyball game, so (we're looking for) a school that fits our profile (and) that's going to enhance our conference because our brand is very valuable."

Western Athletic Conference

  • Commissioner Thornton also spoke about the conference allowing the transitioning schools to compete for conference championships.

"This is a transitional time in college athletics, and student-athletes deserve the opportunity to compete for conference championships," Thornton said. "We cannot control what takes place at the national level, but we're able to put our athletes in a position to compete for championships."

  • FBSchedules.com reports Stephen F. Austin will play a home-and-home series against Central Arkansas in 2022 and 2023. The ‘Jacks will host the Bears in November this year with a trip to Conway, Ark., scheduled for September 2023.

  • Tarleton picked up a commitment from Hawai’i DL O’Tay Baker, who played in 13 games and started five games for the Warriors last year. 

Southland Conference

  • Commissioner Grant discussed a rebranding for the Southland with a possible name change in the future.

"We talked about a rebranding throughout all of last year, and when you look at it, we've been pretty strong throughout," Grant said. "We will continue to define who we are and come up with a brand strategy. I can't guarantee that we'll go to a totally new name, but we're still exploring that and what that looks like."

  • UIW is predicted to finish second in the 2022 Southland Preseason Poll behind Southeastern Louisiana. Texas A&M-Commerce is picked sixth in their debut FCS season, and Houston Baptist is expected to finish eighth. 

  • The Los Angeles Rams signed former Texas A&M-Commerce QB Luis Perez. Perez played for the New Jersey Generals in the United State Football League this year and passed for 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns. This marks Perez’s second stint with the Rams.

  • The Bluebloods interviewed Lamar DB Austin Goffney.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

  • Commissioner McClelland emphasized his focus on ensuring the SWAC remains prevalent during these transitional times in college athletics.

"I can tell you (that) as we continue to grow, we want to make sure that we find our rightful place in this new NCAA," McClelland said. "(With) the transformation committee, there's going to be a lot of changes, but the one thing that I can guarantee our fanbase is the SWAC is going to be (at) the forefront of those changes. We will not be reactionary."

Lone Star Conference

  • The LSC media day is Thursday, and Texas Football Today will bring live interviews beginning at 1:30 p.m. If you cannot listen live, the episode will be available through the Texas Football Today podcast.

American Southwest Conference

Southern Athletic Association

  • Trinity defensive backs coach and special team coordinator Marcus Coleman was selected to participate in the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship. The 11-year NFL veteran of the Jets, Texans, and Cowboys will assist with linebackers and special teams for the entirety of the Jaguars training camp.

Southwestern Junior College Football Conference

  • Trinity Valley announced that SHN Sports Network will broadcast every Cardinals game in 2022. SHN Sports Network’s Malakoff affiliate will webcast eight games, and all games will be webcast on SHN Sports Network’s YouTube channel and Facebook Live.

  • Tyler will debut a new helmet in the 2022 season. The Apache's new lid was designed by Au Concepts & Designs.

  • According to social media, the Apaches added Ono Tafisi and Jacob Donohoe to their coaching staff. Tafisi will serve as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator after spending the last two seasons as the running backs coach for Snow College. Donohoe will be the offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the Apaches after serving as a quality control coach for Illinois State.

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