Stephen F. Austin Leaving WAC to Rejoin Southland Conference in 2024

Stephen F. Austin is leaving the Western Athletic Conference to return to the Southland Conference beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. The football team will leave the United Athletic Conference to rejoin the Southland with the SLC expected to play a 7-game conference schedule in 2024.

SFA became a member of the FCS – then called Division I-AA – in 1984 and joined the short-lived Gulf Star Conference. The GSC lasted three seasons from 1984-85 through 1986-87 with a majority of members joining the Southland Conference in 1987. SFA made 7 of its 8 playoff appearances as a member of the Southland including the 1989 National Championship game. The Lumberjacks lost that game to Georgia Southern 37-34 and reached the semifinals again in 1995.

Stephen F. Austin was one of five teams to leave the Southland for the WAC in 2021 as the WAC brought back football. The WAC teamed up with the Atlantic Sun Conference to maintain access to an automatic qualifying bid for the FCS Playoffs in 2021 and 2022. SFA won the AQ bid in 2021 but lost in the first round 35-28 in overtime to former Southland foe Incarnate Word. The WAC and ASUN eventually merged into the football-only United Athletic Conference in 2023.

A return to the Southland is another boon to the conference that was once sitting at 6 football members following the exodus of Abilene Christian, Central Arkansas, Lamar, Sam Houston State, and SFA in 2021. Since then, Lamar returned to the Southland, Incarnate Word reversed its decision to leave for the WAC, Texas A&M-Commerce joined from NCAA Division II, SFA will come back in 2024, and UTRGV will leave the WAC for the Southland to put the SLC at 10 football-playing members in 2025.

While the WAC lost a member the UAC will still have 9 football programs when SFA leaves although West Georgia will begin the four-year D-II to D-I reclassification process in 2024. UWG will become a full D-I member beginning in 2028-29 leaving the UAC with 8 eligible members during that time (assuming no further defections occur).

Photo Credit to WikiMedia Commons / Michael Barera

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