The Blitz: Could a merger with the C2C or the SCIAC save the ASC?

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The fate of the future of the American Southwest Conference remains unsolved as the 2023-2024 athletic year begins. By now, you’re likely aware of what’s happening. If you didn’t spend every day on during the offseason, here’s a quick recap. 

In March, I wrote about the options for the ASC to retain an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs after the Southern Collegiate Conference decided to reinstate football in 2024. That took away Austin College after this season and Texas Lutheran in 2024. Soon after the SCAC announcement, McMurry became the next school to depart and join the SCAC.

But that wasn’t all the movement. In January, news broke of Sul Ross State transitioning to Division II and joining the Lone Star Conference. Add in the planned departure of Southwestern after last season, and the ASC will soon be left with only four schools that sponsor football. It isn’t much better in other sports for the ASC after Concordia chose to join the SCAC and UT Dallas announced its intention to transfer to DII and join the LSC.

The day after celebrating our nation’s birthday, an exclusive Q&A with the new ASC commissioner, David Flores, was published. His answer to the penultimate question in the article has resurfaced in my mind with the latest rumors of a potential merger being discussed with the Coast-To-Coast Conference (C2C) or the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).

Why would the ASC be interested in a union with one of those conferences? It’s all about surviving as a Division III conference right now. Division II is an option but not an option any of the four remaining football remaining schools (East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, and Mary Hardin-Baylor) want to consider at this time.

The possibility of convincing an NAIA school to give up athletic scholarships and join NCAA Division III seems unlikely. That leaves the ASC searching for a merger. An alliance or a merger with the SCAC would be ideal. However, the schools would’ve had no reason to leave the ASC if they were willing to give UMHB the automatic bid to the playoffs every season.

That leaves us with what Commissioner Flores didn’t think he wanted to do when we spoke following his first two weeks on the job. Did he change his mind, or did he realize the only way to survive now is to merge with another conference? The answer may be a little of both.

With that in mind, I set out to determine if the coaches prefer the C2C and the SCIAC. Unsurprisingly, the SCIAC was a unanimous choice from the coaches I contacted. Let’s look at what makes the SCIAC more attractive to the coaches.

Let’s take a moment to examine the current structure of the C2C and the SCIAC. The C2C’s name is not a mistake - the conference has teams on each coast. The C2C doesn’t currently sponsor football. The two members of the conference that sponsor football already have another conference.

The SCIAC is also true to its name with schools in Southern California. The conference is reasonably stable in all sports but fell to six members that sponsor football when Whittier discontinued its football, men's and women's golf, and lacrosse programs following the 2022-2023 academic year. That places them in danger of losing their automatic bid if one more school that sponsors football departs the conference.

The lure of the SCIAC is apparent. Some coaches said a merger with the SCIAC creates logical divisions. Others explained that basketball and other sports might only need one flight to California to play crossover games against the other division. In comparison, the C2C would leave coaches needing to fill their team’s schedule with more games, and that’s not easy (ask Jesse Burleson at Hardin-Simmons).

Traveling to Southern California a few times a year is preferred over multiple flights nationwide. One basketball coach said when he was looking to add games to their schedule, the options were to bus to East Texas Baptist, remain in Texas, and play two games or fly to Los Angeles and play three games. The plane flight to Los Angeles was the cheaper option.

However, other coaches noted that a merger with either the C2C or the SCIAC would push ETBU and HPU to another conference, likely a reunion with former ASC schools in the SCAC. 

Some coaches expressed concern over the future of the conference. One source believes some schools are working independently for a solution with the intent of looking out for the best interest of their institution. That isn’t going to help the ASC. Other schools working independently is how the conference ended up in this predicament.

Another source said a meeting was held last Friday evening between Flores and representatives of some of the schools. According to the source, little was done to alleviate those concerned about the ASC's direction and future.

As of this moment, the future of the ASC remains unknown. But something has held the ‘Baptist 4’ together thus far. One coach suggested the fabric keeping the schools together is an automatic bid to the playoffs.

“If it saves the ASC, I’ll do whatever we need to do,” the coach said. “All I care about is having an automatic bid to the NCAA (playoffs).”

Texas Wesleyan to play at Crowley ISD

Texas Wesleyan and Crowley ISD recently announced a two-year partnership. The Rams will play their home football games at Crowley ISD Multi-Purpose Stadium until their on-campus facility, which is expected to be ready for the 2025 season opener, is completed. All students and CISD staff can attend all TxWes home games for free with an ID. The Rams played their home games at Farrington Field in Fort Worth since resurrecting the program in 2017.

*This story has been updated for accuracy. The SCIAC currently has six schools that sponsor football and Whittier dropped its football program after the 2022 campaign.

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