On the move; Sam Houston and several other schools to switch conferences Thursday

July 1 signifies the start of a new fiscal year in college athletics

Sam Houston's Ife Adeyi catches the game-winning touchdown against the South Dakota State defense during the Division I FCS Football Championship held at Toyota Stadium on May 16, 2021 in Frisco, Texas. (C. Morgan Engel / NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
NCAA Photos via Getty Images

FARGO - College sports athletes and fans will wake up to a brand new world on July 1, with name, image and likeness being enacted by the NCAA.

That's not the only major change happening today, as several schools will officially change conferences, some leaving long standing relationships and histories behind.

The most notable change is the University of St. Thomas , which will make history going from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Division III to Division I. The Tommies will participate in a majority of their sports in the Summit League, while football will compete in the non-scholarship Pioneer League , with the men's hockey team in the re-formed Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and the women's hockey team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).

For FCS fans, there are several notable changes, perhaps none bigger than for the reigning national champions. Sam Houston, which has been a member of the Southland Conference since 1987, will join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) tomorrow. The Bearkats will bring with them fellow Southland members Lamar, Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin. This move was supposed to happen in 2022, but the Southland decided to kick those schools out a year early. The WAC also will have Dixie State and Tarleton State join the conference on Thursday, but each are moving up from Division II and are not eligible for the postseason until 2024.

With no postseason hopes for this upcoming football season, the WAC paired with three other schools that are moving Thursday; Jacksonville State, Central Arkansas and Eastern Kentucky to form the AQ7. Those schools will play each other and the team with the highest winning percentage will receive an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs.


Central Arkansas is another team that leaves the Southland Conference, the Bears won the conference in 2019. Jacksonville State has been a perennial powerhouse in the Ohio Valley Conference, they along with charter member Eastern Kentucky will be members of the Atlantic Sun Conference beginning on Thursday.

The ASUN announced in February the creating of an FCS football conference, but did not give an exact date to when that will begin. Six teams are needed for an automatic bid to the playoffs, and with current ASUN members North Alabama and Kennesaw State joining UCA, JSU and EKU, the league is still in need of a sixth member. Expectations are that the ASUN will begin as a league in the fall of 2022.

Those are some of the major changes that become official tomorrow. The FCS playoffs makeup immediately changes for the 2021 season now with 11 automatic bids and 13 at-large berths.


  • Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky Ohio Valley to Atlantic Sun
  • Central Arkansas Southland to Atlantic Sun
  • Sam Houston, Lamar, Abilene Christian and Stephen F. Austin to WAC
  • St. Thomas to Summit and Pioneer Leagues
  • North Carolina A&T to Big South
Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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