UTRGV leaving WAC for Southland Conference

UTRGV Vice President and athletic director Chasse Conque speaks during a news conference announcing the Vaqueros will play their home games at what is now named Robert & Janet Vackar Stadium on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

EDINBURG The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is expected to depart the Western Athletic Conference to join the Southland Conference in 2024-25, sources confirmed to The Monitor.

UTRGV has been a member of the WAC since 2013. That run will come to an end this summer as the Vaqueros enter the Southland Conference with a startup football program set to launch in 2025.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel first reported Wednesday evening that UTRGV officials informed WAC officials of their intent to leave the conference for the Southland with an expected exit fee of $2 million.

The UTRGV athletics department responded to the report with a statement Wednesday but stopped short of confirming the move.

“We are aware of recent media reports. As you know this is a dynamic time in college athletics with exciting opportunities for our university,” the UTRGV statement said. “We are always evaluating ways we can enhance the competitive experience for our student-athletes and improve their overall well-being. We have nothing definitive to announce today but stay tuned.”

UTRGV vice president and athletic director Chasse Conque declined to speak on the move during a news conference announcing the naming of the former H-E-B Park as Robert & Janet Vackar Stadium, UTRGV football’s home field, on Thursday.

WAC commissioner Brian Thornton confirmed UTRGV’s exit from the conference with a statement Thursday morning.

“This decision speaks in large part to the growth and overall strength our conference has built in recent years. The WAC has taken many steps in its recent history to raise the profile of the league nationally, and our presidents and athletic directors remain committed to that upward trajectory,” Thornton said. “The WAC will not waver from our mission of being competitive at the highest level while providing quality resources and experiences for all WAC student-athletes. We acknowledge UT Rio Grande Valley’s contributions to the WAC in helping grow the conference over the past decade.”

UTRGV will grow the Southland Conference from eight to nine schools in football and 10 to 11 schools in other sports, all from Texas and Louisiana.

The Southland conference is made up of Texas universities Incarnate Word, Houston Christian, Lamar, Texas A&M-Commerce and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Louisiana universities McNeese State, New Orleans, Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana. New Orleans and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are the two that do not compete in football.