Southern Utah Announces Move to Western Athletic Conference

Published: January 14, 2021 | Author: Southern Utah University | Read Time: 5 minutes

SUU announces move to WACContinuing the traditional relationship between the state of Utah and the Western Athletic Conference, Southern Utah University announced today that it will join the WAC effective July 1, 2022.

It was announced today that the Thunderbirds will be joining the league, along with Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin from the Southland Conference, bringing back FCS football to the Western Athletic Conference.

“Southern Utah University is honored to join the WAC and help lead the resurgence of this great conference,” said SUU President Scott L Wyatt. “We join a group of universities that is growing in enrollment and a conference that is poised for the future. Being a member of the WAC also creates new athletic rivalries that our alumni and fans are excited about. This is a win-win opportunity for SUU and we look forward to the future.”

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.

The Thunderbirds will be joining the WAC ahead of the 2022-23 season, leaving the remainder of the current athletic season and the 2021-22 season to be played in the Big Sky Conference.

“The opportunity to become a member of the WAC is very exciting for us,” SUU Director of Athletics Debbie Corum said. “We believe that the future of SUU Athletics as a member of the WAC will provide exciting opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches and fans. It was an honor to be invited to join this group of institutions that possess a strong vision for the future and will challenge us to continue to grow as an athletic department and as an institution. The majority of our teams will be playing in divisions, which will make a positive impact on student-athlete welfare due to decreased travel time. Also, it gives us a chance to win divisional championships, which will help elevate every team competitively.”

The five new members of the WAC, starting in 2022, will join Dixie State and Tarleton State as FCS football teams already part of the league and currently acting as independents. New Mexico State currently plays football at the FBS level as a member of the conference.

“I cannot overstate my level of excitement in making this expansion announcement,” said WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd, “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.”

Southern Utah will be joining the WAC after being a member of the Big Sky Conference since 2012. During their tenure in the Big Sky the Thunderbirds claimed seven team conference titles, including a football championship in both 2015 and 2017, and a number of Big Sky individual championships.
Prior to joining the Big Sky, the T-Birds were full-time members of the Summit League (2007-12), which evolved from the Mid-Continental Conference (1997-2007).

“We have been a proud member of the Big Sky Conference for the last eight years. During that time, we have won seven conference team championships, 59 individual conference championships, finished second in the conference in the NACDA Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup, have strengthened our social media following, improved our academic prowess, and claimed the league-wide award for community service hours. In addition, President Wyatt was on the search committee for the past two Big Sky Commissioner hires. We will continue to work to contribute to the success of the Big Sky throughout the remainder of our membership, and would like to thank the Big Sky membership for the previous eight seasons. We look forward to working and competing with them for the rest of our tenure.”

The Thunderbirds will be joining in-state rivals Utah Valley University and Dixie State University as members of the WAC. At one time or another, nearly every Division I institution in the state of Utah has been a full-time member of the Western Athletic Conference, with the exception of Weber State.
The Thunderbird gymnastics program will remain a member of the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference, as the WAC no longer sponsors women’s gymnastics. Ironically, the Thunderbirds already own a WAC Championship thanks to the 2010 Flippin’ Birds, who used to be affiliate members of the league.

The WAC Digital Network (WDN) is the official network of the Western Athletic Conference. It encompasses original live programming from around the conference. The WDN is available on both your desktop and mobile/tablet devices, as well as for over-the-top (OTT) platforms, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV. In addition to the more than 600 games and matches aired annually on the WDN, all game broadcasts are available ‘On Demand’.

In addition, the WDN produces more than 60 events exclusively for ESPN. WAC tournaments in men’s & women’s basketball, baseball, men’s & women’s soccer, softball, volleyball, the men’s and women’s swimming & diving championships, plus select regular season men’s basketball games air on ESPN+. The deal also includes the WAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship games produced by ESPN and airing on their family of networks.

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