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ESPN: Southern Utah, Utah Tech Part Of New Conference Attempting Move To FBS

Dec 9, 2022, 4:07 PM

Utah-Tech-Trailblazers-Southern-Utah-Thunderbirds-Football-2022...

Southern Utah vs. Utah Tech football in 2022 (Courtesy of SUU Athletics)

(Courtesy of SUU Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Southern Utah Thunderbirds and Utah Tech Trailblazers are among programs from the Western Athletic Conference that plan to merge into one league with teams from the Atlantic Sun in an attempt to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), according to ESPN‘s Pete Thamel.

The college football insider reported the merger on Friday, December 9.

“The remaining football members of the Atlantic Sun and WAC have agreed to align to form the foundation of a 10-member football-only conference, sources told ESPN, with the intention of becoming the 11th FBS conference,” Thamel reported.

SUU and Utah Tech are among the 10 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools that have “signed on to join the league.”

Per Thamel’s sources, the new conference aspires to jump “from what is currently known as FCS football to what is currently known as FBS football at the earliest practicable date.”

The new league is reportedly known as “ASUN-WAC Football” in founding documents but will have a new name in the future.

New WAC-ASUN Football Conference

  • Western Athletic Conference
    • Stephen F. Austin
    • Abilene Christian
    • Utah Tech
    • Southern Utah
    • Tarleton State
  • Atlantic Sun Conference
    • Austin Peay
    • Eastern Kentucky
    • Central Arkansas
    • North Alabama

UT Rio Grande Valley is starting a football program and is expected to join the league in 2025.

The WAC-ASUN schools have reportedly signed a “multi-party term sheet agreement” committing them to the conference. Part of the agreement highlights the league’s goal to “immediately explore expansion opportunities.”

“Of note here: The agreement includes the goal to “immediately explore expansion opportunities,” sources said. League officials have begun early conversations with at least four other high-profile FCS football programs, sources said,” Thamel tweeted.

Currently, the FBS has 10 conferences. The WAC-ASUN merger would be the 11th FBS league if elevated from the FCS ranks.

According to the NCAA handbook, “Before a [FCS] institution may apply for reclassification for the [FBS] the institution must receive a bona fide invitation for membership from a [FBS] conference or a conference that previously met the definition of a FBS conference.”

The Beehive State currently features three FCS programs in Southern Utah, Utah Tech, and Weber State. The state’s current FBS programs are BYU, Utah, and Utah State.

RELATED: Utah Tech Wins Second Straight Game In Shootout With Southern Utah

If the new conference reaches the FBS and doesn’t include Weber State in its expansion, the Wildcats would join the Snow College Badgers as the only football programs in the state of Utah to not play in the FBS. Weber State currently competes as a member of the FCS’ Big Sky Conference. Snow is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

Utah Valley (Division I), Westminster (Division II), Utah State Eastern (NJCAA), and Salt Lake Community College (NJCAA) don’t compete in football.

The Thunderbirds finished their 2022 football schedule with a 5-8 record. Utah Tech went 4-7.

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ESPN: Southern Utah, Utah Tech Part Of New Conference Attempting Move To FBS