LAKE CHARLES, La. — In his presentation Tuesday at Southland Conference Media Day, commissioner Tom Burnett talked about geography and changes over the league’s 51 years.
The SLC began with five football-playing members. This season, there will be 11 with Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist not being eligible for the postseason because of transition to Division I. “That creates some scheduling challenges (nine conference games, not everybody playing everybody) that will continue to be addressed,” he said.
He continued, “We’ve come out of the alignment in a great situation and have kept things geographically sensible.”
He was proud that the league produced three of the 24 teams in the FCS playoffs last season.
Noting that conference members have played in 12 national championship games and 13 bowls and have won 12 games against Football Bowl Subdivision members since 2001, he said, “we expect to compete for championships every year.”
He noted that the league’s newest members (Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word) are thinking progressively. Abilene Christian has plans for a $75 million stadium and Houston Baptist is constructing an on-campus stadium with significant support in the Houston area.
Burnett said he is proud that the Southland is the first FCS conference to have full instant replay at all games. With its partnership with Big 12 and Mountain West officials, personnel to oversee and monitor the replays are already available, although training will be involved as far as the implementation of the technology at all schools. All plays will be reviewed by four high-definition cameras.
“We are in the final drive of the fourth quarter on implementing this,” he said. “It has been quite a project.”
While he is in a “wait-and-see” mode as far as developments in the Power 5 conferences, Burnett said he hopes FBS teams will continue to play FCS teams.
“If they don’t play FCS opponents in some non-conference games, who are they gonna play?” he asked. “They can’t play Notre Dame every week.”
He said there should continue to be opportunities for FCS teams to play non-conference games against conferences outside the so-called Power 5.
“The mid-level guys look more like us than they do the Power 5,” he said. “If you look at the results, when Power 5 teams play us, there is not a whole lot of difference in the results than when the Power 5 plays the other five.”