Southland officially adds member

Published 1:11 pm Monday, March 25, 2024

The Southland Conference officially tied the knot with its newest member Monday.

The league announced that the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley has accepted an invitation to join the league effective July 1. The Vaqueros will be eligible to compete for SLC titles immediately. 

UTRGV and the Southland will hold a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon to formalize the deal. Reports of the move first broke last week, including in the American Press.

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“We are delighted to welcome the Vaqueros and their rich tradition of athletic and academic excellence to the Southland Conference,” said SLC Commissioner Chris Grant. “In an era where too many college athletes are pushed beyond reasonable limits by travel related to away games, we are proud to add another great institution to our ‘gas tank league’ featuring rich competition that is easily accessible to our student-athletes, families, and fans. 

“We are thrilled to welcome an incredible institution that strengthens our league and its members while continuing to support and enhance the student-athlete experience.”

Grant added that he is working on other teams joining the Southland.

“We want to have schools that add to our brand and are in our regional footprint,” he said. “We want to be a conference that people want to come to, to be a destination.”

Sources have told the American Press the Southland is currently in talks with Stephen F. Austin, also a member of the Western Athletic Conference like Rio Grande Valley. SFA was a former member of the SLC. 

Grant said no other school has been invited to join the Southland and did not comment on any talks.

“My phone is always ringing,” Grant said last week. “I’m willing to talk and listen.” 

UTRGV will begin playing football in 2025. 

“Our acceptance into the Southland Conference is a testament to the growth and success UTRGV has experienced since we opened in 2015,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said in a statement. “On behalf of UTRGV, I would like to thank the Southland Conference and fellow university presidents for their unwavering support. 

“As we embark on this new journey, we look forward to forging new rivalries and celebrating remarkable academic achievements, a reflection of our shared commitment to excellence both on and off the field. Together, we stand poised to elevate the standards of collegiate athletics while nurturing the academic aspirations of our student-athletes.”

Rio Grande Valley finished last in the WAC in men’s and women’s basketball last season. UTRGV is the second school to leave the WAC for the SLC in the last two years. Lamar returned to the SLC one year after leaving for the WAC in 2022.

The move to the Southland Conference will significantly decrease UTRGV’s travel, which was the reason McNeese elected not to join the WAC when invited in 2022. The total roundtrip mileage from UTRGV to all full-time Southland Conference institutions is 9,448 miles, compared to the 22,970 miles roundtrip from UTRGV to all WAC institutions. 

The move gives Southland 11 schools, nine of which will play football. Of those, six are located in Texas with five in Louisiana. The move also benefits the schools currently in the Southland.

“This is huge for our league,” said McNeese State Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “I want to congratulate our commissioner Chris Grant. He has done a tremendous job reviving the conference.

“It is getting harder and harder to schedule games for football and basketball. This will give us four home and four away games in the conference in the future.”

Grant has stated that he believes more news on expansion is coming.

Possible Future Southland Targets:

Stephen F. Austin

Tarleton State


Abilene Christian