A recently published report by CollegeAD indicates that four SWAC institutions, Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern, Grambling, and Southern, are being targeted by the Southland Conference as potential new members.
After five schools announced earlier this year their plans to leave the Southland Conference for other leagues, conference officials have since begun the arduous task of finding suitable replacements.
“The Board discussed the league’s progress on membership possibilities and will continue to review options for the league’s future configuration,” the league stated in a release at the conclusion of its annual Spring meetings.
Prairie View and Texas Southern, located in Texas; Grambling and Southern, located in Louisana; align perfectly with the Southland Conference’s geographic footprint. This is not the first time the SLC has targeted PV and TSU as possible league members, but according to the report, there are some unique circumstances at Grambling and Southern that give Southland officials reason to be optimistic in pursuing both Louisiana institutions.
Especially now, as Grambling State is in the midst of its search to replace AD David Ponton, “it’s just an easier transition” for the next AD to also help the Tigers step into the Southland. And as other sources have put it, the SWAC and Southland footprints are “on top of each other, forget just overlapping.”
more from College AD:
Finally, four other members of the University of Louisiana System, of which Grambling State is a member, are current Southland members: McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State, and New Orleans. With Southern A&M as the other potential addition from Louisiana, the Southland could “all of a sudden become a giant Louisiana league, which is fine. It’s probably what they needed to do in the first place.”
The report further added that the league’s primary focus is to target current D1 institutions, but it isn’t “in a hurry to get a replacement plan in place … but at the same time it’s something that will be done, and needs to be done, sooner rather than later.”
Multiple sources affiliated with the SWAC institutions being targeted by the Southland have informed HBCU Sports that a move to switch conferences is unlikely. One source, in particular, even labeled the matter “a non-issue.”
“The unfortunate death of George Floyd has resulted in HBCUs receiving a level of attention and awareness that we’ve never seen before,” said another source in a text message. “With the addition of FAMU and BCU joining the conference and all the other things the SWAC is doing right now, leaving the SWAC to join the Southland would not be in our best interest.”
Another source familiar with the situation referred to the attendance of past nonconference home-and-home football contests involving SWAC versus Southland opponents. “The Southland schools always produce higher attendance numbers, if not attendance records, when our schools play on their campuses,” the source stated. “But SWAC schools can’t get those same type of crowds when we play those Southland teams on our campuses.”
While the individuals HBCU Sports spoke with agreed that joining the SLC would reduce travel costs, they couldn’t point to any other benefits that would warrant consideration to make a move at this time.
The Southland Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference are currently trending in two different directions. Membership in the Southland is shrinking, while SWAC membership is expanding.
Abilene Christian, Sam Houston State, Stephan F. Austin, and Lamar are leaving the Southland Conference to become members of the WAC beginning July 1. Central Arkansas is leaving the SLC to become a member of the ASUN Conference.
Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M will leave the MEAC to become members of the SWAC on July 1, officially making the conference a 12-team league.