Southland Conference announces seven-member spring football schedule

By Kelly Guess

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The Southland Conference has announced that it will officially proceed with a spring schedule for the first time in the 58-year history of the league. 

The spring slate will span six games and include seven Southland Conference members: Texan schools UIW, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Louisiana schools McNeese State, Nicholls, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana. Games start on Feb. 20, 2021. 

“From the beginning, I believed spring football was our best opportunity to get football this year,” UIW athletic director Richard Duran said. “I was the first one in the conference to really share that opinion. Over the next couple of months, people got on board with it.”

The schedule change means that the Southland Conference will be eligible to compete for the FCS Playoffs. The playoffs are tentatively scheduled to start on April 24 with a national championship game on May 15 or 16 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. The Southland Conference champion will receive an auto-bid to the playoffs. Only 16 teams will make the playoffs – 11 auto-bids and five at-large – as opposed to the typical 24. 

This decision is contingent on the campuses staying healthy. Protocols will be decided at a later time, but the conference will likely follow the one-test-a-week model set as the standard by the NCAA.

Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Central Arkansas and Stephen F. Austin all decided to participate in the fall and will opt out of the spring season. All but HBU plan to play relatively robust schedules built around nonconference opponents. Not playing in the spring was an easy decision. 

“If you really look at the last few years, everything that's come out of the NCAA and college football has been about reducing injury exposure,” Houston Baptist coach Vic Shealy said. “We just felt like if you go in there and ask your players to play 6, 7, 8 ball games and then only have three months before you play 11 and try to make the playoffs, you can't really put out there – in our opinion – that it's the best thing for players to play over 20 games in 12 months.” 

The SWAC and American Southwest Conference have both previously announced spring schedules as well. The Lone Star Conference, Southern Athletic Alliance and Sooner Athletic Conference also expects to play in the spring. 

Here is the full schedule of Southland games involving Texas schools –

Feb. 20

  • Sam Houston State at UIW

  • Northwestern State at Lamar

Feb. 27

  • UIW at McNeese State

  • Lamar at Nicholls

  • Southeastern Louisiana at Sam Houston State

March 6

  • UIW at Lamar

March 13

  • Lamar at McNeese State

  • Nicholls at Sam Houston State

March 20

  • Southeastern Louisiana at UIW

  • Sam Houston State at Lamar

March 27

  • UIW at Nicholls

April 1 (THU)

  • Sam Houston State at Northwestern State

April 3

  • Lamar at Southeastern Louisiana

April 10

  • Northwestern State at UIW

  • McNeese State at Sam Houston State

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