Jim Gazzolo column: Waiting for UIW to exhale

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, June 16, 2022

As the summer moves on the rumors heat up concerning the Southland Conference.

We have yet to hear the final word on Incarnate Word.

Excuse me if I date myself and quote the Ted Knight character Judge Elihu Smails from “Caddyshack” and say somewhat sarcastically, “Well … we’re waiting.”

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Meanwhile, Incarnate Word holds two leagues in limbo, kind of.

With the July 1 leading racing toward us, the Cardinals have a big decision to make.

It’s really the only question of the summer, one that frankly is holding little drama compared to the past few summers when it seemed teams were moving all over the place.

This makes for a nice story in San Antonio, but it’s honesty getting a little old for the rest of us.

Officially, UIW is leaving for the Western Athletic Conference at the end of the month. It’s what school officials have stated all along. So maybe it’s just the rest of us who are keeping this alive.

If so, I apologize to the Cardinals and their fans and wish them well in WAC.

Yet the internet is filled with differing opinions, which of course is what makes the internet fun but not always accurate. Still, rumors swirl of a final decision coming.

But when things are dull in the summer and the games are no longer being played, you have to find entertainment where you can in college sports. So we get this.

Incarnate Word officials, especially Athletic Director Richard Duran, seem to be enjoying their time in the spotlight. Why not? It hasn’t really ever been on the university and its athletic program before.

So gobble it up folks. Take your time, but understand the clock is running out.

It seems likely that Duran and the Cardinals want something if they stay from the Southland. They might even want something from the WAC.

Makes sense, McNeese did pretty well with its decision to stay and not go.

But the Cardinals need to understand times are different and you can’t compare the situations. Just like apples and oranges, the circumstances are completely different.

When McNeese’s decision was made, the Southland had no choice but to award the Cowboys with events. After all, the likelihood of the league being around after an McNeese exit followed by UIW leaving was slim at best.

But the SLC already has a replacement for UIW in place in Lamar so while keeping the Cardinals would be a nice feather in the league’s cap, it is not a saving move.

As for the WAC, well it was a much better landing spot last summer. With Sam Houston State and New Mexico State heading to Conference USA, the WAC won’t be moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision level anytime soon, so that television money is gone.

And with new commissioner Chris Grant on board and promising changes, suddenly the revived Southland is a nice landing spot for teams. Maybe a few former schools that have left will return, joining Lamar which did so recently and will be returning a year from now.

Meanwhile, the WAC is a conference spread over three time zones with no real home base or footprint. It has to have a deal with the Atlantic Sun just to have one guaranteed playoff berth between the two of them.

The Southland still gets one all to itself.

Ironically, UIW, for the first time in the program’s history, was that automatic qualifier last fall.

Lamar’s decision to head back to the Southland is the story this year. It proves that McNeese was right for staying and UIW would be smart to do the same.

Yet there are the Cardinals, feeling more wanted by the WAC, or at least wanting to be wanted. We all like that feeling.

This all makes for a nice little story but no real drama. UIW will decide and we all will move on.

But hey, if it makes them folks at the Alamo feel better, we can throw a party for them if they decide to stay.

We’ll even throw in a media day or two on the river walk for the fun of it.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at