After two seasons and two different names, the ASUN and WAC football schools will compete in a newly named United Athletic Conference. The 9 members will compete under the UAC brand for the FCS Playoff automatic qualifying spot given to the conference winner.
The ASUN and WAC have partnered up in football since 2021 when it was referred to as the “AQ7” as Abilene Christian, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Lamar, Sam Houston State, and Stephen F. Austin vied for the AQ bid. Sam Houston State won the AQ7 bid and made a quarterfinals appearance as the #1 overall seed in the FCS Playoffs.
In 2022, the two conferences renewed the agreement but the AQ bid was contested by eight teams under the “WAC-ASUN Challenge”. Abilene Christian, Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, North Alabama, Southern Utah, and Stephen F. Austin were the teams eligible for the FCS Playoff AQ bid. This time it was Eastern Kentucky that received the AQ bid but suffered a first-round loss to Gardner-Webb.
As of this writing, there are 10* football members in the UAC: Abilene Christian, Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, North Alabama, Southern Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, and Utah Tech. There are a few caveats to the membership as has been the case for the previous two seasons. The first* is that Kennesaw State is leaving the ASUN after the 2023-24 academic year and will be classified as an FCS Independent for 2023. Secondly, Tarleton State and Utah Tech are not eligible for the AQ bid as part of the four-year reclassification process from Division 2. Both schools will be eligible for the AQ bid beginning in 2024. Finally, UT Rio Grande Valley will be starting a new football program and joining the UAC beginning in 2025.
For 2023, only 7 schools will eligible for the AQ bid: Abilene Christian, Austin Peay, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, North Alabama, Southern Utah, and Stephen F. Austin. The 2023 season will feature only a 6-game conference slate among the teams but that will increase to a full round-robin schedule of 8 in 2024. All this may be a prelude to the UAC’s attempt to become an FBS conference. Whether or not that happens and the potential impact of such an occurrence, if allowed by the NCAA or otherwise, remain to be seen.