The Blitz: Southland and American Southwest Conference updates

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We live in an exciting time in college athletics, and there is no shortage of news each day. The Blitz will not have a regular publishing schedule. Some weeks, updates could happen daily, yet two weeks could pass between editions at other times. Ultimately, this means my mother will have to click on more links. Sorry, Mom! The Blitz is now exclusively for subscribers only.

The Southland Conference has dominated the conference realignment rumor mill for the last few weeks. The rumors didn’t slow down this week, as the SLC held meetings with its members in San Antonio. Multiple reports have surfaced that Stephen F. Austin to the Southland is a “done deal,” some expected an announcement as early as this week.

Sources close to the negotiations indicate that nothing is official, and any announcement likely remains at least a week or more away. While the Lumberjacks are expected to return to the Southland, we should remember that SFA’s new President, Dr. Neal Weaver, and Director of Athletics, Michael McBroom, arrived on campus to begin official duties this week. A more reasonable expectation for an announcement is within the next two weeks.

One item to watch when the announcement arrives is Lumberjacks' timeline for joining the the SLC. Sources have indicated new schedules exist for the Southland teams, including SFA for the 2024 campaign. Many Southland coaches have expressed concerns about the feasibility of breaking their contractual obligations with a scheduled opponent to make room for SFA. 

Meanwhile, schools in the Western Athletic Conference would be left to search for an opponent to add to their 2024 schedule at a time when options are slim if the Lumberjacks depart on July 1st. Some of these issues would be avoided if SFA remains in the WAC through the 2024-2025 academic year. 

Abilene Christian is another school that is speculated to be considering a move back to the Southland Conference. Sources indicate that rumors of anything official with the Wildcats are greatly exaggerated. As shown in the piece I penned earlier this week, ACU and Tarleton will have many options. Multiple sources have confirmed that ACU will receive an invite to the Southland. Other sources confirmed that Tarleton has not received an invite from the Southland, and one isn’t expected to be extended soon.

Since LeTourneau announced its departure for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference in mid-April, the American Southwest Conference has been quiet, which ASC Commissioner David Flores prefers. However, the commissioner’s preference hasn’t slowed the amount of scuttlebutt in the past. Does the silence indicate that we should expect an announcement regarding the future of the ASC soon? 

The answer to that question is unknown. Sources have indicated multiple times throughout the last few months that the conference was close to an announcement, noting that negotiations are fragile. Industry sources expect an announcement in May since most NCAA Division III conference moves happen this month. While frustration with the process is understandable, the sensitivity of the negotiations requires those involved to hold information tight. Hopefully, an announcement will happen sooner rather than later.

Multiple sources believe it’ll be easier for Flores to solve the non-football sports first, allowing his focus to shift toward solving the future of ASC football. Some believe the solution depends on the success of the round-robin format used by the SCAC and ASC teams in 2024. Many coaches are not excited about playing conference foes twice during the regular season. An alliance between the ASC and SCAC to maintain an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs becomes likely if the round-robin format is universally despised this season.

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