SALT LAKE CITY — WAC football is coming back.
The Western Athletic Conference plans to announce the formation of a revitalized league that will play in the Football Championship Subdivision on Jan. 14 in Houston, as first reported by Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel.
The move — which has been well-documented by the Extra Points newsletter, KSL.com and other news sources — would launch a league with at least seven teams in 2022: Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, Dixie State and Southern Utah.
KSL.com has confirmed that Southern Utah football plans to leave the Big Sky for the WAC, according to sources with knowledge of the plans. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because no plan has been publicly acknowledged.
Sources: The WAC plans to announce on Jan. 14 at NRG Stadium in Houston the formation of its FCS league, which starts play in football in 2022. The initial 7 WAC members: Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin. Southern Utah, Tarleton State and Dixie State. 1/2— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 6, 2021
The newly formed WAC would need to add two more schools to begin play with an automatic qualifier to the NCAA's FCS Playoffs for the league champion. Weber State is among the schools that have been approached about joining the the league, but others have also been considered — a handful of Division II schools and other FCS institutions, according to several sources.
The four new Texas schools would join Tarleton and UT Rio Grande Valley to form a strong Lonestar State contingent to the conference, while SUU and Dixie would join Utah Valley, Grand Canyon, Cal Baptist, New Mexico State and Seattle to compose a strong western core, as well.
Dixie State joined the league ahead of the 2020-21 academic year in most sports, while its football program moved up from Division II to the FCS independent level. The Trailblazers will play their first season in Division I FCS in the spring, beginning Feb. 27 at fellow WAC newcomer Tarleton State.
Unknown in the setup is Chicago State, which has long been a geographic outlier since the conference was reconstituted from the remains of the now-defunct Great West Conference in 2013. The Cougars, who are assumed to remain in the league, recently announced they would not play out the 2020-21 men's basketball season due to COVID-19 concerns involving playing during a pandemic — a move that was then echoed by Dixie State's women's basketball team.
The WAC sponsored football from its founding in 1962 through the 2012 season, when the defection of all but two football-playing schools caused the conference to drop the sport. The league produced several standout schools in the sport, including Arizona and Arizona State jumping to then then-Pac-10 from the conference, and BYU's national championship in 1984 while a member of the league.