Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Southland Conference

College sports roundup

Southland Conference postpones fall sports.

After much deliberation, the Southland Conference has postponed league competition in all of its fall sports with the intent of playing a football season in the spring of 2021 due to concerns over COVID-19.

The Southland will, however, allow teams to play nonconference games if they choose.

Houston Baptist, for example, plans on playing its three scheduled nonconference football games this fall, including at Texas Tech. HBU’s other nonconference opponents are North Texas and Louisiana Tech.

The Huskies also will participate in nonconference games in volleyball and women’s soccer.

[…]

Sam Houston State will not try to play any sports in the fall, but Stephen F. Austin said it would.

HBU will play three opponents (North Texas, Texas Tech, and Louisiana Tech) who will pay them for the game. That’s one way to mitigate the financial hit for this.

West Coast Conference postpones fall sports.

Keeping in line with many other leagues around the country, the West Coast Conference, which includes BYU, announced Thursday that it has postponed all conference fall competition due to the coronavirus pandemic and is looking at ways to compete in the spring.

The decision was reached by the WCC Presidents’ Council after consulting with the league’s 10 athletic directors and commissioner Gloria Nevarez over the past several weeks.

This move impacts women’s volleyball, soccer, men’s cross-country and women’s cross-country. But it doesn’t affect men’s and women’s basketball, which is scheduled to tip off in November.

The conference “remains fully committed and continues to work closely with campus leadership on plans to ensure a safe environment to conduct the 2020-21 WCC men’s and women’s basketball seasons in the winter,” according to league officials. “The conference intends to explore various models for conducting WCC competition in the fall sports of men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball in the spring of 2021. The WCC strongly supports efforts to encourage the National Collegiate Athletic Association to conduct fall NCAA championships in the spring.”

The WCC includes Gonzaga, so you can understand the desire to play basketball.

Southern Conference postpones fall sports.

VMI will not play Virginia nor any other football team this fall.

The Southern Conference announced Thursday that it is postponing its fall sports season until next spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. SoCon presidents voted on the matter Thursday afternoon.

Although SoCon games are moving to the spring, the conference is permitting its teams to still play nonleague games this fall.

But VMI decided not to exercise that option. So the Keydets will not play their scheduled game at UVa on Sept. 11.

“We made the decision, our CEOs did, regarding fall moving to spring, and we support that and believe it’s in the best interest of our cadet athletes to shift things to the [spring],” VMI athletic director Dave Diles said Thursday in a phone interview. “And therefore [VMI] didn’t feel it was the right thing to have any additional parts separated from that decision.”

VMI would have received $375K to play UVa.

Horizon League postpones fall sports.

The Horizon League has canceled sports this fall.

On Thursday afternoon, the league announced it has postponed all competition for fall sports. Among the schools in the Horizon League are Detroit Mercy and Oakland.

In total, 10 sports have been canceled, including men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s golf, baseball, softball, men’s tennis and women’s volleyball.

The league said any decision to move fall sports competition to the spring will be made at a later date. Individual schools will implement their own rules involving team workouts, in accordance with NCAA and state guidelines.

The Horizon League had previously voted to delay the start of the fall sports season until October 1.

Big Sky and Western Athletic Conferences postpone fall sports.

There won’t be any sports competitions this fall in either the Big Sky Conference or Western Athletic Conference due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both leagues made their announcements Thursday and are looking at the possibility of moving fall competition to the spring. It impacts four Utah colleges: Weber State and Southern Utah in the Big Sky, and Utah Valley and Dixie State in the WAC.

The Big Sky had previously announced it would postpone the league’s conference competition in football this fall, and Thursday’s news confirms there won’t be any nonconference play in any sport. The decision also impacts Big Sky competition in sports like men’s and women’s cross-country, soccer and volleyball that compete for their championships in the fall, as well as those in their nonchampionship portion of the season, including men’s and women’s golf, softball, men’s and women’s tennis.

[…]

The Big Sky punted making a decision on when the league’s winter sports — men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field — could start competition.

The WAC’s fall championship sports impacted include men’s and women’s cross-country, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer. The league also said the earliest possible competition date for sports in the nonchampionship portion of their season is Jan. 1, 2021, affecting men’s and women’s golf, baseball, and softball.

The WAC will discuss winter athletics competition at a later date, while saying competition in men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s swimming and diving competition will be postponed through the end of October.

All of these conferences are FCS; the WAC used to be FBS, but dropped football after lots of schools moved to other conferences. Also, FCS school New Mexico State postponed its fall sports, becoming the third independent FCS school to do so, following the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts. They all join the Big 10 and the PAC 12 in sitting it out for now, leaving the fall to the Big 12, SEC, and ACC

I don’t know what other FCS conferences there are out there, but for now at least this is what we’re going to get. I’m still quite skeptical that these three Power 5 conferences, plus the non-P5 FCS schools that are still in, can do this safely, but they’re going to try. And who knows, maybe they can. Sean Pendergast makes the case that the conferences that postponed were the foolish ones.

Regular students are coming back to campus anyway
At many of these schools, particularly in the Big Ten, regular students are actually returning to on campus classes this month. Yes, thousands of kids on campus, left to determine social distances and left for us to trust their masking policies. Football players at those schools will now be spending MORE time near the rest of those students. Also, if the Big Ten schools with student returning to campus are THAT concerned about COVID-19, to where they re canceling football, then why on earth are they bringing students back? It makes no sense.

Players in the SEC, ACC, and Big XII will have better access to testing and medical care
When they ultimately nail down hard and fast protocols, it is widely assumed that the SEC, ACC, and Big XII will obviously have some sort of regular testing for COVID-19. This, along with the access to top notch medical staff and facilities, make the players at those schools the most cared-for college students anywhere when it comes to COVID-19. Between frequent testing, the structure of a football regimen, and great doctors, you could argue the safest students in the country are the football players of the SEC, ACC, and Big XII. I feel for the Big Ten and Pac-12 kids who are now left without testing, and many of them being sent back to their hometowns, where depending on their family’s healthcare coverage, it’s hit or miss as to just how protected they are from the coronavirus.

Athletic departments budgets are about to be plundered, say goodbye to non-revenue sports
It would be naive to ignore the fiscal suicide being committed by the Big Ten and the Pac-12, who stand to lose tens of million of dollars by canceling the 2020 football season, basically out of fear — fear of bad press, fear of future litigation, fear of whatever. It’s why I wanted to establish first that the student-athletes in the conferences PLAYING football are actually safer from COVID-19, so my argument doesn’t appear mercenary. Big Ten schools pocket over $50 million per year from the Big Ten Network ALONE. Athletic departments stand to drown in a sea of red ink approaching nine figures. Non-revenue sports, basically everything that’s not football and basketball, that provide scholarship opportunities for literally thousands of kids, many female and minorities, are going to die under a financial guillotine when this is all said and done.

Playing a spring season is actually MORE dangerous than playing in the fall
Here is perhaps the least logical part of the whole thing — the Big Ten and Pac-12 are reportedly wanting to play in the spring. So this would mean playing a football season, which I’m assuming is a minimum of eight games, starting in, say March. This would run through May. Training camp for the fall season, assuming there’s a COVID vaccine and/or therapeutic medicine, would begin in July. That’s LESS than two months between seasons. Seasons of FOOTBALL. This is beyond malpractice, and far more abusive than any sort of exposure players would have to COVID-19. It seems that everyone wanting to cancel football, stuck in their coronavirus fetal position, conveniently forget that they’ve been watching and enjoying a sport for years that includes the risk of permanent head trauma.

Maybe! I think #3 is a legitimate concern, and #4 is a concern for a different reason, which I’ve seen expressed elsewhere: You’re moving football games from October and November to January and February, which are a lot colder and have more snow. That’s not great for a variety of reasons. Multiple football programs have had COVID outbreaks among their players already, some bigger than others, and I have plenty of doubts that the coaches, ADs, and whoever else is making these decisions has any idea what they’re going to do if a team has a similar outbreak during the season. And Lord help us if they all insist on having fans in attendance. I will readily admit, moving these sports to the spring has its share of risks and downsides. But let’s not underestimate the risk of staying the course.

The NBA is keeping an eye on SB6, too

I’d be shocked if they weren’t.

While lauding the work of New Orleans to take on the NBA All-Star game after the league pulled its events from Charlotte because of House Bill 2, which limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people in the state, NBA commissioner Adam Silver did not sound eager to take those steps again.

Silver said the NBA will closely monitor similar legislation pending in Texas and other states when considering bids to host future All-Star weekends and its many related events.

The Rockets have prepared bids to host either the 2020 or 2021 All-Star weekend, a person with knowledge of the process said on the condition of anonymity because the effort had not been announced publicly.

“In terms of laws in other jurisdictions, it’s something we continue to monitor very closely,” Silver said. “You know, I’m not ready to draw bright lines. Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games.”

[…]

“We’d have to look at the specific legislation and understand its impact,” Silver said. “I mean, I’m not ready to stand here today and say that that is the bright line test for whether or not we will play All-Star Games in Texas. It’s something we’re, of course, going to monitor very closely.

What we’ve stated is that our values, our league-wide values in terms of equality and inclusion are paramount to this league and all the members of the NBA family, and I think those jurisdictions that are considering legislation similar to HB2 are on notice that that is an important factor for us. Those values are an important factor for us in deciding where we take a special event like an All-Star Game.”

Greg Abbott is gonna be so mad about this, you guys. And from the league Commissioner, not some “low level adviser”, too. The NBA has already moved an All Star Game out of North Carolina, so they have a track record of action. Sure, the NBA All Star Game isn’t as big a deal as the Super Bowl, but there are three NBA cities in Texas, and there have been three All Star Games played in Texas since 2006, with Houston aiming for another one soon. Why would we want to mess that up?

Also, too, there’s this:

In addition to the NBA and NFL, the Big 12 has said it’s keeping an eye on the bill’s progress. The NCAA has deferred comment even as it threatens to move several championship games from North Carolina over the state’s bathroom law. San Antonio is set to host the Men’s Final Four in 2018. Dallas is hosting the women’s championship this spring, but the bill won’t be passed before the event.

The NCAA we know about, but recall that the Atlantic Coast Conference also moved several conference championship games elsewhere. Texas is home to schools in the Big XII – which will be having a football championship game again; wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if they decide to have it in, say, Oklahoma City instead of Dallas? – the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Southland Conference, and more. Lots of conferences, lots of sports, lots of tournaments and championship games potentially not being held in Texas. And for what?

HBU and UIW make the leap to Division I

I wish them luck.

One of Dr. Louis Agnese’s earliest recollections of the University of Incarnate Word’s athletic program was quite memorable — and not in a good way.

In 1985, his first year as president of the school, Agnese said he went to watch a basketball game at the university’s Wellness Center. The game was canceled.

“It was stopped because of rain,” Agnese said, referring to water being on the basketball court.

Nearly three decades later, the school’s athletic program has a much brighter appeal.

UIW officially joined NCAA Division I and the Southland Conference on Monday, celebrating the occasion with a campus ceremony that included coaches, athletes, cheerleaders, alumni and fans.

The Cardinals were one of four schools making the move to the conference, joining Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist and the University of New Orleans to make up a 10-team league.

“We think this is a great partnership for the future of the Southland Conference,” SLC commissioner Tom Burnett said. “There are great days ahead for this university. We are as excited as can be.”

I had previously noted UIW’s interest in making the leap to Division I here and here, with Abiliene Christian (formerly College, now University) being mentioned in the latter link. HBU began its move at about the same time. Here’s the Chron story on their first day in the SLC.

Houston Baptist athletic director Steve Moniacci has been attending Southland Conference meetings for a year and a half.

At his next one, he’ll finally get to vote.

HBU officially became a member of the Southland Conference on Monday for all sports except men’s soccer. It makes the move from the Great West Conference.

[…]

Moniacci said the biggest advantage of the move is that HBU will play regional league competition.

“We will have fans visiting our campus from other schools who have never had a chance to visit our campus,” he said. “It also increases the ability of our fans to go to league games that they have not been able to go to in the past.”

Rather than get on a plane and fly 1,600 miles to New Jersey Institute of Technology or 1,400 miles to Utah Valley, the Huskies can load up a bus and drive 90 minutes to Sam Houston State in Huntsville or to Lamar in Beaumont.

Moniacci said the school will save six figures in travel costs. That was before it added a football team, which almost doubles those costs.

You don’t often hear about schools saving money by going this route. I don’t know if that will be true in the longer term, but for now at least I’m sure HBU will be happy to not travel to New Jersey and Utah. Like I said, I wish them well in their new conference home.

HBU wants a name change

Always a challenging task.

Half a century after being founded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as “a Christian college of the highest order,” Houston Baptist University may soon erase the religious designation in its name.

Saying that the Baptist tag creates a barrier for potential students, university officials are exploring a name change for the 51-year-old school – a prospect that concerns some alumni who fear HBU’s religious identity would be de-emphasized.

Although an alternative name hasn’t been chosen, one possibility mentioned at an HBU town hall meeting last Thursday was “Morris Christian University,” after Stewart Morris, a founding father and major donor.

At the town hall meeting, one of two held last week, HBU board member Ray Cox Jr. argued that “the name Houston and the name Baptist are somewhat limiting to a national Christian university. … That’s why we are considering changing the name.”

I don’t know, “Morris Christian University” sounds limiting to me. It sounds like a school in a small town. Maybe that’s just me.

In recent years, the school’s profile has shifted significantly from its origins with an inaugural freshman class of 193 students. Only about one-third of HBU’s 2,500 students are Baptist.

Last year, the university voted to add three non-Baptists to the board of trustees, making HBU the first university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to allow non-Baptist trustees.

[…]

The HBU-commissioned survey of 1,129 current and prospective students and faculty showed that the current name wasn’t the best fit with the university’s vision of becoming “a comprehensive national Christian university,” Mark Denison, a board member and chairman of the name change committee, said at the town hall.

Denison said officials are also considering dropping Houston from the university’s name because the geographical term is limiting. He noted most of the students come from three surrounding counties.

The timing of the change coincides with the school’s transition to the Southland Conference and the addition of football in 2014, Denison said.

I suppose they could go the TCU route and decide that the acronym is the name. As we know from the UH-Downtown experience, it’s not easy finding a new name that enough people like, or at least don’t dislike. The committee will present its findings in May, so we’ll see what they come up with. Greg has more.

Division I wannabes are popping up all over

And they’re all interested in the same conference.

The Southland Conference likely holds the key to Incarnate Word’s dreams of moving its athletic program into NCAA Division I.

[…]

UIW students participating in a survey would support by nearly a 2-1 margin the school’s planned transition to Division I, according to results published Wednesday afternoon.

But according to the Student Government Association survey, a majority of students would not support proposed fee increases to fund the move.

The survey said 63 percent supported the push for Division I status, but 56 percent did not support a fee increase of $100 per semester.

A university official said there were 401 respondents, approximately 10 percent of the full-time undergraduate student body.

Other schools in the Division II Lone Star Conference contemplating the move up to Division I include Abilene Christian and Angelo State, SLC commissioner Tom Burnett said Wednesday.

“We’ve heard from those folks and a few others,” he said. “It’s an interesting time with the interest in Division I from some longstanding Division II members.”

We heard about UIW a couple of months ago. HBU has already taken the plunge. UTSA started out in the SLC before moving up to the WAC. I wonder at what point it will cease to make sense to be a Div II program in Texas because there aren’t enough nearby peer institutions to schedule. Which is good for the SLC, and presumably for the conferences that pick up the schools that feel like they’re getting too big for it.

HBU adds football, joins Southland Conference

Add another Division I football program to the city.

The holidays came early for Houston Baptist University and the Southland Conference as both crossed an item off their wish lists.

HBU joined a conference offering nearby members and a home for all its sports except men’s soccer, and the Southland added its first Houston member and an institution that will soon bring another football team to the league.

The Southland officially extended an invitation, effective July 1, 2013, to HBU on Monday.

The Huskies will begin a football program that will play in the Southland in 2014 and could compete as soon as 2013.

HBU’s Board of Trustees gave its approval to pursue football in June. Landing in the SLC, which is a much better geographic fit for HBU and which enables them to qualify for the SLC’s automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament, is a pretty good coup for them. It’s unclear where they’ll play as yet – Dynamo Stadium was mentioned as a possibility in the print version of this story, though oddly not in the online version – but in the end I suspect they’ll build their own facility. I wish them luck as they get their program off the ground.

Another Division I program in San Antonio?

That’s what the University of the Incarnate Word wants to be.

UIW President Lou Agnese said Friday the Cardinals are considering joining the Southland Conference after less than two years in the Division II Lone Star Conference.

UIW’s interest in Division I is a calculated move by Agnese to “extend the brand” of his school, which has mushroomed in enrollment during his tenure as leader.

With a current fall enrollment of 8,445 students, UIW is the fourth-largest private school in Texas behind Baylor, SMU and TCU. When Agnese arrived at UIW in 1985, the school had an enrollment of 1,298.

“We’re building the ‘Cardinal Brand,’” Agnese said. “We’ve been on a 25-year trajectory to build it. And the next step for us, if the students agree, is to make the move to Division I.”

And when I arrived at Trinity back in 1984, they were known as Incarnate Word College. If we had a rival in athletics, they were it. Well, for basketball, anyway – I don’t think they had football back then, or if they did we didn’t play them. I have to say, it blows my mind a little to see them say they want to step up to Division I. I had no idea they’d grown that much. How many of you had even heard of them?

UIW student athletes greeted Agnese’s plans with great interest when he met with them earlier this year, he said.

UIW students will vote on Agnese’s plan in November. If approved, student activity fees would increase from their current $350 per year.

The school then would petition the Southland Conference to join in January with hopes of becoming a member by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Agnese said the school also has considered applying to Conference USA. But the likely target is the Southland Conference, which has lost UTSA, Texas State and UT-Arlington to the Western Athletic Conference since 2010.

The SLC commissioner was non-committal, but it sounds like if UIW commits to going that route, they’ll wind up there eventually. Money is the big issue, as they would have to go to 63 football scholarships from the 28 they currently give as a Division II school. Facilities, for both football and basketball, are also an issue, as their current average attendance for football is less than half what the typical SLC school draws. They’re mulling various capital improvements, and also some football games at Alamo Stadium and basketball at Alamo Convocation Center, both of which are SAISD facilities. Like I said, it’s going to cost a bunch of money to move on up, but they seem determined to spend it. I wish them the best of luck.

HBU to start playing football

Assuming they can find someone to play with, that is.

The [Houston Baptist University] board of trustees, after conducting a financial feasibility study this year, gave its approval to add football pending alignment with a conference in Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).

“Our board’s approval is contingent, but we are ready to go when we get an invitation from a conference,” [school president Robert B. Sloan Jr.] said.

[…]

Sloan said HBU has reached out to several conferences, among them the Southland Conference and Summit League, to express the school’s willingness to add football if invited to join the leagues.

“The idea is to get in a conference that we feel like has some regional connection, some natural rivalries that we can develop,” Sloan said.

The SLC would offer the best regional alignment for HBU, with neighboring football-playing members Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin and Lamar, along with four Louisiana schools and Central Arkansas.

The SLC will lose Texas State and Texas-San Antonio to the Western Athletic Conference in 2012.

But at the league’s spring meetings May 25, SLC presidents did not consider adding any new members — the league will stand at 10 after Texas State and UTSA depart following next season — in the near future.

“While interested in continuing to survey the national and regional landscape for future possibilities, the board did not consider membership expansion,” SLC commissioner Tom Burnett said in a statement. “The Southland has confirmed plans to be an organization of 10 member universities beginning next summer.

“President Sloan and other HBU officials have graciously shared their future athletics plan with us, including the possibility of football sponsorship, and we certainly wish them well in the university’s successful return to Division I.”

The Summit League doesn’t currently include football, but four of its member schools play it, in different conferences. I presume they’d want to add at least a sixth football-playing team before they took on the sport. HBU wouldn’t start playing until two years after getting a conference invitation, so don’t go inquiring about season tickets just yet.

I understand the allure of football for a school, but I have to wonder if HBU is thinking about this clearly.

[Sloan] said the school has the available land on campus to accommodate practice fields, locker rooms and other training facilities.

Sloan said the building of an on-campus stadium is a future option, but the school will seek to lease a current stadium for home games.

Based on the financial feasibility study for playing in FCS, Sloan said HBU has determined it could break even after the third year of the program.

Really? Because last I checked, football was considered a sucker’s game. That article is almost a decade old now, so perhaps things have changed. I’d still love to know what assumptions went into that study. Regardless, I wish HBU the best of luck in getting their program off the ground. Maybe some day I’ll see their squad pay Rice Stadium a visit.

Conference realignment isn’t just for the big boys

Expect to see a lot of smaller fish moving around now that the dust in the big conferences has mostly settled.

[Southland Conference] commissioner Tom Burnett told the San Antonio Express News last week that he expected Texas State and UTSA to eventually leave the Football Championship Subdivision and bolt for the WAC, which is scrambling for survival in the aftermath of losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference.

His position remains unchanged.

“When you look at what the WAC is faced with and what they need to do to essentially ensure their existence in the future, they need football programs, and they need them right now,” Burnett said. “Texas State and UTSA have made it very clear that this is something that they want in their future, and they have not only said that but have acted on it.

“They have put money or soon will into tremendous growth in their athletic departments, facilities, scholarships, staffing, all of that which will lead them to have the ability to play in the Football Bowl Subdivision.”

Here’s that Express-News story, which has a lot more detail. The SLC is an FCS conference, so this will be a step up in more ways than one for UTSA and Texas State. UTSA hasn’t even played a game yet, which in addition to the bump in conference level means the timeline is uncertain. As I’ve said before, as things stand now I think C-USA is the best geographic fit for these schools, but who knows what C-USA may look like in a few years’ time.