This post was edited on August 3, 2022 to reflect the news of Lamar returning to the Southland Conference starting in 2022 and Campbell joining the CAA in 2023. This post was updated on September 21, 2022 after Houston Baptist changed its name to Houston Christian. This post was further updated on October 14, 2022 with the announcement of Kennesaw State joining C-USA in 2024.
The 2022 season is inching closer and with it are numerous notable changes at the FCS level. Let’s take a look at what’s changed for 2022 with a table at the end to help summarize everything.
The ASUN Rises (And Sets?)
In January 2021, the ASUN announced they would be sponsoring football beginning with the 2022 season and they also spent the 2021 season in a scheduling alliance with the WAC. Well… that scheduling alliance has returned in 2022 thanks to a few defections from both conferences. This year’s alliance will feature 8 teams – 5 from the ASUN and 3 from the WAC – but unlike 2021 they will play separate conference schedules (i.e. WAC teams will play a complete schedule against the other WAC teams). The top team from each conference will be eligible for the combined automatic qualifier spot based on yet-to-be-determined criteria.
Two Schools Change Names
The school formerly known as Dixie State University will now be known as Utah Tech University after the Utah State legislature approved the name change in late 2021. The school will keep the Trailblazer nickname and the new name went into effect on July 1, 2022.
A few months later on September 21, Houston Baptist changed its name to Houston Christian University with immediate effect. The school will not change its nickname (Huskies) or the school colors of orange and blue.
Same Faces, Different Places
In last year’s article summarizing the FCS changes for 2021, we noted several changes that would take place in 2022 and beyond. Well, in the year that has gone by, there’s been a lot more news in the realignment world with the possibility of even more after recent events. We’ll go in alphabetical conference order starting with the ASUN.
The ASUN will welcome three new members for 2022 in Austin Peay, Kennesaw State, and North Alabama. The latter two were known changes (from the Big South) when the ASUN announced in January 2021 that they would sponsor football while Austin Peay announced in September 2021 that they would leave the OVC.
The Big South will welcome Bryant to the conference for football only (Bryant is joining the America East for other sports) from the NEC although they will be losing 2 members to the CAA. The duo of Hampton and Monmouth will depart from the Big South to bolster the already big ranks for the CAA this fall. The CAA was not without its own loss as James Madison opted to make the jump up to the FBS and join the Sun Belt this fall.
The NEC, which already lost Bryant, decided to go back to the Division 2 well and brought up Stonehill College for the 2022 season. The NEC previously invited Merrimack to the conference in 2019. Both Merrimack and Stonehill were members of the Northeast-10 Conference prior to joining the similarly named Northeast Conference.
We’re not done with the Division 2 call-ups as the OVC announced they invited Lindenwood from the GLVC for the 2022 season. The last D2 school that is joining the FCS in 2022 is Texas A&M-Commerce, which will leave the Lone Star Conference to join the Southland this season.
The final conference to discuss is the WAC, which has 2 new members joining. Southern Utah, which was a previously known addition, will come over from the Big Sky. Meanwhile, the WAC also went back to the Southland to secure membership from Incarnate Word for 2022 but the Cardinals had a change of heart right before the start of the academic year. Lamar followed suit and left the WAC a year earlier than scheduled to rejoin the Southland.
It wouldn’t be college athletics without some changes on the horizon. We will list the known changes for the 2023 season and beyond below. There is no doubt the list below will be outdated rather quickly with the numerous anticipated realignment moves.
North Carolina A&T announced in February 2022 that they would leave the Big South for the CAA starting with the 2022-23 season for all sports except football. The Aggies were kind enough to remain in the Big South for 2022 to ensure the conference maintained its AQ playoff status. Shortly after the NCAT news, the Big South and OVC announced a scheduling agreement starting in 2023 to help both conferences maintain access to an AQ playoff bid.
Another team leaving the Big South is Campbell University. Like NCAT, they will be joining the CAA starting in 2023 to give the CAA a whopping 15 football members.
Murray State announced in January 2022 its intention to leave the OVC and join the Missouri Valley Conference. As the MVC doesn’t sponsor football, it wasn’t known at the time which conference Murray State would join but it was revealed in April 2022 that the MVFC is the destination starting in 2023.
Two teams will be leaving the FCS in 2023 with Jacksonville State (ASUN) and Sam Houston State (WAC) joining the FBS and Conference USA. These two departures put both conferences in the perilous position of not having the minimum of 6 eligible members to keep the AQ bid, which led to the extension of the scheduling alliance between the ASUN and WAC. As for the WAC, UT-Rio Grande Valley appears to be headed towards starting a new football program after a student referendum was requested. The new program is targeting its first season to be in 2025.
Kennesaw State decided to move up to the FBS after a successful first decade at the FCS level. The Owls will join Conference USA in 2024-25 with a spot next to current ASUN member Jacksonville State.
With all these changes taking place over the next 2 years, we also need to keep in mind that some teams will not be eligible for the FCS Playoffs as a result. The duo of Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State are ineligible as 2022 marks the first year of a two-year transition to the FBS.
The NEC has two ineligible teams for the FCS Playoffs and one for the conference title after a recent change. Merrimack is in its final season of transition before becoming a fully eligible Division 1 team, however, they are now eligible for the NEC title (but not the AQ). Stonehill is embarking on a 4-year long transition and will not be eligible for the FCS Playoffs until the 2026 season barring changes to the NCAA bylaws. Stonehill will be eligible for the NEC title starting in 2024-25.
Both Lindenwood of the Ohio Valley Conference and Texas A&M-Commerce in the Southland are ineligible for the FCS Playoffs until 2026 alongside Stonehill. All three will need to complete the 4-year transition process from Division 2 before becoming eligible.
The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota still has 4 more years of transition after they made the double jump from Division 3 to Division 1. The WAC duo of Tarleton State and Utah Tech still have 2 more seasons of ineligibility.
For a piece of good news: North Alabama’s first year in the ASUN will coincide with their first year of FCS Playoff eligibility should they be selected as the AQ from the ASUN-WAC Alliance or as an at-large team.
Below is a table summarizing everything we discussed above for 2022, 2023, and beyond. We also included the ineligible teams for the 2022 season for future reference.
|Team||Previous Conference||New Conference||First Season|
in New Conference
|James Madison||CAA||Sun Belt (FBS)||2022|
|Kennesaw State||Big South||ASUN||2022|
|Lindenwood||GLVC (D2)||OVC||2022||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2026|
|North Alabama||Big South||ASUN||2022|
|Southern Utah||Big Sky||WAC||2022|
|Stonehill||NE-10 (D2)||NEC||2022||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2026|
|Texas A&M-Commerce||Lone Star (D2)||Southland||2022||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2026|
|Jacksonville State||ASUN||C-USA (FBS)||2023||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs in 2022|
|North Carolina A&T||Big South||CAA||2023|
|Sam Houston State||WAC||C-USA (FBS)||2023||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs in 2022|
|Kennesaw State||ASUN||C-USA (FBS)||2024|
|UT-Rio Grande Valley||WAC||WAC||2025||Possibly starting football program|
|Staying in Southland|
|Houston Christian||Southland||Southland||N/A||Name Changed from Houston Baptist|
|Merrimack||NEC||NEC||N/A||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2023|
|St. Thomas (MN)||Pioneer||Pioneer||N/A||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2026|
|Tarleton State||WAC||WAC||N/A||Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2024|
|Utah Tech||WAC||WAC||N/A||Name Changed from Dixie State / Ineligible for FCS Playoffs until 2024|
Image courtesy of Lindenwood University Athletics