GRAPEVINE, Texas – At the Southland Conference’s annual spring meeting this week, the league’s board of Directors approved final adjustments to the new 14-member alignment that debuts July 1, and confirmed future schedule format changes requested by the basketball coaches and approved by the advisory council.
The Southland has expanded to 14 members, the largest configuration in its half-century of existence, with Abilene Christian University, the University of the Incarnate Word, the University of New Orleans and Houston Baptist University all join the league this summer. In addition to the overall membership, the Southland will have 11 football-playing members in 2014, also the largest such alignment the league has had in its history.
ACU and UIW are currently NCAA Division II programs making the four-year transition to Division I, and each program will have scheduling restrictions in 2013-14, as well as championship participation limits throughout the conversion period to full Division I membership. HBU and UNO are full NCAA Division I members and have no such restrictions.
For the coming year, schedules and championship event qualification are set. The 2013 football schedule is final with the current eight teams, as new programs Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist and UIW will debut in the 2014 schedule.
In basketball, the Southland has developed a travel-swing partner schedule to give its Division I members 18 league games, and the two transitioning DI programs 14 games, twice against one another and once versus the DI teams. ACU and UIW cannot count as Division I scheduling opponents in 2013-14, but will be schedule counters in 2014-15 and beyond. Similar scheduling limits are in place for ACU and UIW in sports like baseball, volleyball and softball.
The board and the advisory council approved a revised regular-season format for basketball, effective in 2014-15. Instead of the Thursday-Saturday doubleheader format used in 2012-13 and also planned for the coming year, the conference will end the weeknight twinbill, allowing the women’s game to be played Thursday night, followed by a men’s-women’s doubleheader on Saturday, and then a men’s game (against the same institution that the women played Thursday) Monday night.
In the final week of the 2014-15 regular season, men’s and women’s teams will revert to the Thursday-Saturday doubleheader in an effort to not interfere with the tournament schedule the following week.
“Essentially, the road swings for the men’s and women’s teams are reversed with everyone getting a prime-time tipoff opportunity on the weeknights,” said commissioner TOM Burnette. “Many members found the early starts for the women and late nights for the men in that format to be less desirable. But the Saturday doubleheader works very well for our members, so we have found some compromise.”
The administrative groups did not implement the new format for the upcoming season due to scheduling conflicts in some facilities.