Big changes are in the works for the Western Athletic Conference and that means a new era for Utah Valley University athletics.

WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd announced Thursday morning that it was adding five new schools in 2022-23 including getting Southern Utah to leave the Big Sky Conference to join the WAC.

That means the Wolverines and Dixie State will have a third school in the league, making it the first time that has ever happened with Division I athletics in Utah.

“Utah Valley University welcomes all incoming universities to the WAC,” UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez said in a statement. “Surely the student-athletes from all these institutions will add to the inspiration we feel from competition and hard work in and out of the classroom.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, and Southern Utah join the Western Athletic Conference. These five institutions strengthen the WAC, give us a bigger footprint in the Lone Star State, and provide the state of Utah with three schools in a single conference. Their academic and athletic reputation will help advance the league’s standing within intercollegiate athletics and give the WAC stability for many years to come. Welcome to the WAC!”

The biggest impact for UVU will be how sports will be divided into Texas and non-Texas divisions, which will impact scheduling and traveling.

The league has evolved significantly over the years, with teams leaving and joining at various times. The latest move gives the league 13 total teams.

“I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement,” Hurd said. “The opportunity to bring five quality institutions into the conference, to bring football back under the WAC umbrella and at the same time significantly strengthen basketball and other conference sports is one that is easy to embrace.”

“The end result could not have been accomplished without the collaboration and shared visions of the WAC’s Board of Directors and the Presidents of the incoming institutions. It not only stabilizes the conference for the future; it also positions it for significant growth and success.”

Here is the complete press release from UVU regarding the new expansion:

“Utah Valley University joins the current members of the Western Athletic Conference in welcoming Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, and Southern Utah as new members of the league.

“WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd announced on Thursday that membership invitations issued by the league’s Board of Directors to the five universities had been accepted. The five schools will become full members and will begin competing in the WAC for the 2022-23 athletic season.

“’Utah Valley University welcomes all incoming universities to the WAC,’ UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez said. ‘Surely the student-athletes from all these institutions will add to the inspiration we feel from competition and hard work in and out of the classroom.’

“The WAC has a strong tradition and history in the state of Utah. BYU (1962-99) and Utah (1962-99) were two of the original six members of the league, along with Arizona (1962-1978), Arizona State (1962-78), New Mexico (1962-99), and Wyoming (1962-99). Utah State (2005-13), Utah Valley (2013-present), Dixie State (2020-present), and now Southern Utah (2022) will have enjoyed membership in the league. In all, six of Utah’s Division I schools will have called the WAC its conference home.

“With Utah Valley, Dixie State, and Southern Utah all having full-time membership in the WAC, the State of Utah will now have three of its Division I institutions in the same conference for the first time in its college athletics history.

“’We couldn’t be more excited to have Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, and Southern Utah join the Western Athletic Conference,’ Tuminez said. ‘These five institutions strengthen the WAC, give us a bigger footprint in the Lone Star State, and provide the state of Utah with three schools in a single conference. Their academic and athletic reputation will help advance the league’s standing within intercollegiate athletics and give the WAC stability for many years to come. Welcome to the WAC!’

“Four of the institutions — Abilene Christian University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State University and Stephen F. Austin State University — are in Texas and currently are members of the Southland Conference. The fifth, Southern Utah University, is a member of the Big Sky Conference.

“The additions will create a 13-team conference that will be divided into two divisions for team sports other than football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. One division will consist of the Texas-based institutions including current WAC members Tarleton State University and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The other division will include Southern Utah along with Dixie State University, New Mexico State University, Grand Canyon University, California Baptist University, Seattle University and Utah Valley University.

“I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement,” Hurd said. “The opportunity to bring five quality institutions into the conference, to bring football back under the WAC umbrella and at the same time significantly strengthen basketball and other conference sports is one that is easy to embrace.”

“’The end result could not have been accomplished without the collaboration and shared visions of the WAC’s Board of Directors and the Presidents of the incoming institutions. It not only stabilizes the conference for the future; it also positions it for significant growth and success.’

“The addition of football will bring to 20 (10 men’s and 10 women’s) the number of sports in which the WAC will sponsor championships. Divisional play only will be held for baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s soccer and women’s soccer with championship tournaments held at the conclusion of each of the conference seasons.

“Men’s and women’s basketball will feature both divisional and crossover play with the number of conference games to be played still to be determined. Football will include full conference play.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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