There may soon be a new conference in college football.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel is claiming sources have told him that the Atlantic Sun and Western Athletic Conference (WAC), currently members of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), are looking to combine their remaining members to create a new conference that will move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
The conference would become the first new conference in the FBS since the Mountain West joined in 1999 and the 11th FBS conference in total. It could potentially include 10 schools: Utah Tech, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, Abilene Christian, Southern Utah, Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky, North Alabama, Central Arkansas, and the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UT-RGV).
UT-RGV is starting a brand new football program and will join the conference in 2025, which will be its first official season. Until then, the program will hire its staff and begin recruiting players. Its official practices will begin in 2024.
UT-RGV announced its football program along with women’s swimming and diving in November.
“This is another milestone moment in a process that will soon transform UTRGV and the Rio Grande Valley,” University Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque said of the additions. “We have already experienced incredible support for and interest in sport expansion, and we are looking forward to ‘Rallying the Valley’ around our new programs.”
The schools have reportedly committed to the agreement and aim to start the conference in 2024, but there are still challenges to overcome before the conferences can officially make the move.
For instance, as a prospective football-only conference, it would seemingly be breaking a current rule preventing one-sport conferences that the NCAA currently has in place. Also, there is little to no regulation in place to guide the creation of a new FBS conference, and FCS programs usually have to experience transition and probationary periods when making the move to the FBS, which is why the conference cannot form until 2024.
Other schools that have made the move in the past include Appalachian State (2014), Coastal Carolina (2017), Western Kentucky (2009), Liberty (2018), and Texas State (2012).
The move to create a new conference was driven by the departures of several current members. Kennesaw State and Jacksonville State will soon leave the Atlantic Sun for Conference USA, and Sam Houston State will be leaving the WAC to also join Conference USA.
The proposed new conference has yet to be named.