NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Leaving a college conference can seam easy when you say it out loud but before SFA decided to leave the Southland Conference for the Western Athletic Conference they did some number crunching.
One benefit of the Southland was that it was geographically pleasing to it’s member’s. All the members were in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. With moving to the WAC seven of the current nine members are outside of Texas. The closest school outside of Texas for the ‘Jacks is New Mexico State, 836 driving miles away. The furthest away is Seattle University at 2,251 driving miles.
But of course SFA did not come alone to the WAC. The “Texas 4″ changed the landscape of the WAC and made it profitable and sustainable. With SFA, Sam Houston, Lamar and Abilene Christian all joining the league it provided the league to divide all the sports, except football, into two divisions - The West and the Southwest.
Starting in 2022, the West division will be made up of Seattle University, California Baptist, Grand Canyon University, Dixie State, New Mexico State, Southern Utah and Utah Valley. The Southwest division will be Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston, SFA, Tarleton State, UT- Rio Grande Valley and a possible seventh institution to be named later. The football league will be comprised of SFA, Sam Houston, Abilene Christian, Lamar, Tarleton State, Dixie State and Southern Utah. There is a belief that UTRGV will eventually add football. It is something the administration is exploring.
The WAC did the divide like this because conference schedules will be played in divisions. The league said they are still working on the details to see if it will be a one-time round robin format or a two-time round robin format. This will cut down on travel for teams in all corners of the WAC. There will be a few cross over games but for the most part the travel will be regional.
“There is an opportunity to increase our brand exposure and our bran identity into some growth markets,” SFA Athletic Director Ryan Ivey said. “The state of Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the country from a percentage standpoint, being in large markets like Phoenix [with Grand Canyon], into New Mexico and Southern California. While people may think that is not close to Nacogdcohes, which from a geography standpoint they would be correct, it is not hard to get there. It is an easy flight from Dallas or Houston and for them to Dallas or Houston and a quick drive to Nacogdoches.”
The school will need to move fast on little things like changing out all the Southland logos to WAC logos. Ivey believes a conservative estimate on one-time cost items could be as little as $100,000. Even with divisions travel will add up. For instance the basketball tournament for the conference is in Las Vegas. It will cost more to go to Vegas than it will to Katy, Tx, where the Southland tournament is held every year.
Ivey said what will help is a better revenue share structure between the conference and its institutions with more money, percentage wise, going back to SFA with the WAC than with the Southland. The “Texas 4″ will also bring in over 400 more yearly contests to the WAC TV deal with ESPN. Ivey believes a bigger deal with the conference and the WAC could be worked out to allow for more revenue there as well.
“When you look at it from an expense standpoint and travel, we believe we will see an increase in travel expenses but not as much as everyone believes because of divisional alignment,” Ivey said. “The revenue offset of that will be much greater that will allow us to be at net positive, new neutral at minimum but net positive moving forward.”