There will be a new FBS football conference soon if a cadre of schools based mostly in the South and Southwest get their way according to a report from ESPN’s Pete Thamel.
Nine members of the Atlantic Sun and Western Athletic Conferences will merge to form a football league, with the goal to play at the higher level “at the earliest practicable date.”
The schools involved are Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian, Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State), Southern Utah and Tarleton State from the WAC, and Atlantic Sun football members Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky, Central Arkansas and North Alabama of the Sun Belt. UT Rio Grande Valley would also be be projected to join the league in 2025.
How this will happen is still to be determined, as the usual process for reclassification is being changed as part of the re-writing of much of what regulates intercollegiate athletics in the era of name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights for players as well as unprecedented media dollars.
The two conferences already merged to have a path towards an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs in 2021, but how their new status would be regarded by the College Football Playoff when they expand to 12 teams in 2024 is still unknown.
For those that love the highest levels of college football, adding more teams is likely a good thing. There are currently 131 FBS institutions, with James Madison the latest to be added in 2022.