The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference dropped another wrench in the future of the American Southwest Conference on Monday by announcing the addition of Concordia University Texas and the University of the Ozarks for July 2024.
The loss of CTX and Ozarks is a significant loss for the ASC. This move is the first time the conference has lost its non-football members to the SCAC during this current realignment cycle. CTX and Ozarks do not sponsor football and leave the ASC with six members for men’s and women’s basketball beginning for the 2024-2025 season, the minimum number of teams allowed for a conference to maintain an automatic bid for the playoffs.
In 2024, the ASC will have the ‘Baptist 4’ (Mary Hardin-Baylor, Hardin-Simmons, East Texas Baptist, and Howard Payne), LeTourneau, a non-denominational university, and UT Dallas. Sources indicate that LETU is solidly aligned with the remaining ASC schools.
UTD is the wild card right now. While the ASC can ill-afford to lose another institution, UTD conducted a feasibility study for NCAA Division II. Unfortunately, plans to transition to DII were put on hold during the pandemic. However, those talks could resume with the ASC facing a murky future, and the Comets could follow Sul Ross State to the Lone Star Conference.
The driving forces behind the recent departure of schools from the ASC is a matter of internal debate within the conference. Some note that the schools departing the ASC align with other institutions with similar religious and ideological beliefs, which is highly plausible.
One look at the denomination of each school remaining in the ASC and the SCAC points to a clear ideological separation. Five of the 11 SCAC schools in 2024 are Presbyterian, with two institutions apiece affiliated with the Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church, and Catholic Church.
Sources at some of the departing schools mentioned the ability to sell alcohol at sporting events as an issue of division with the ASC, while others have pointed to differences in diversity, equity, and inclusion as a reason for the split.
Other sources at some of the remaining ASC institutions believe the teams are departing for competitive reasons, and it’s not an argument that can be easily dismissed. The members of the ‘Baptist 4’ have won 14 of 17 possible ASC titles since 2018 in football and men’s and women’s basketball.
Sources I contacted for this piece are still pondering what the future holds for the ASC, and many scenarios remain possible. Any plan for the ASC to stay viable in all sports begins with keeping UTD in the conference or finding an NAIA team that aligns with the Division III model and has the desire to transition away from athletic scholarships.
Some have said the ASC and the SCAC will have a football alliance to help the ASC maintain an automatic bid to the playoffs. They pointed to the past when the ASC was willing to help the SCAC football teams. However, the SCAC is in a position of strength and only needs to ally with the ASC if they departed for competitive reasons.
Other sources have mentioned the possibility of Texas Lutheran or Schreiner wanting to be part of a more competitive conference and moving back to the ASC. Of course, the conference would welcome two football schools with open arms. However, this option seems like at least another year away, especially with the ASC still needing a new Commissioner.
On the other hand, if the institutions are honest about their desire to align with schools with similar religious and ideological views, then an alliance with the ASC should happen.
Many questions remain across Texas on the future of the ASC, and we’ll continue to seek answers to all of those questions.
All Luis Perez does is win trophies. The 2017 Texas A&M-Commerce national title winning quarterback added another championship ring after leading the Arlington Renegades to a victory over the DC Defenders in the XFL Championship. A winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy awarded to the Most Valuable Player in NCAA Division II, Perez added to his legendary status by being named MVP of the XFL title game.
Lone Star Conference
Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze recently voiced support for allowing an exhibition game at the end of spring practice. However, coaches of Non-FBS teams across Texas are split on the idea, with the opposing coaches citing injuries and finances as their main concerns.
American Southwest Conference
Texas Lutheran released its 2023 schedule, highlighted by five home games. The Bulldogs open the season on the road against Wisconsin-Oshkosh in Week 1 and return to the road to meet former ASC rival Southwestern in Week 2. Then, TLU hosts its home opener in Week 3 against Ave Maria (Fla.). October will be a challenging month for the Bulldogs with a home game against Mary Hardin-Baylor followed by a road game against Hardin-Simmons before returning home to host East Texas Baptist for homecoming.
Sooner Athletic Conference
SAGU released its 2023 schedule last week. The Lions open the season in Week 2 with a road trip to Howard Payne before opening SAC action at Arkansas Baptist in Week 3. The road to the SAC title will go through Waxahachie with three of SAGU’s five home games against SAC favorites Ottawa (Ariz.) in Week 4, Langston in Week 5, and Texas Wesleyan in Week 7.
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