To all of Division I: Watch out for the new kids in town.
Tarleton State recently announced that they plan to make the jump to NCAA Division-I. According to a statement issued by the school, they will be joining the Western Athletic Conference. As the WAC does not sponsor football, the Texans will be competing as an FCS independent for the 2020 season. Here’s what this move could mean for the school and college sports landscape as a whole.
First of all, Tarleton is good at football. Very, very good at football. The announcement came on the heels of a 37-26 upset of D-I Stephen F. Austin earlier this season, who compete in the Southland. The Texans went 12-1 last year, winning the Lone Star Conference title and only being defeated by eventual D-II national champion Minnesota State in the playoffs. They’ve certainly proved that they can compete on a Division-I level, and it should be exciting to see them show it.
Football isn’t the only sport that the Texans excel at. Men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball, golf, and more teams have all won at least one regular season or conference tournament championship in the past five years in the Lone Star Conference. Men’s basketball in particular has had great success in the LSC, making the NCAA D-II playoffs fourteen times since 2002. It should be interesting to see how all of their programs find a home (and success) in the WAC.
What Comes Next
Tarleton State will compete as one of three FCS independents for the 2020 season. Presbyterian will be joining the Pioneer League for football in 2021, and will be playing as an independent for a transitional year. This puts TSU in a similar spot with Dixie State. The fellow D-II squad is also joining the WAC in 2020. Both schools are the only current or future FCS schools to not announce plans to eventually play in a football conference.
This move shows that the WAC’s strategy of recruiting D-II schools to fill out its ranks has again been successful. Tarleton and Dixie State will be joining as new members for 2020, while Cal Baptist made the jump in 2019. After the turbulence of the past decade, the conference’s future is finally starting to look brighter.
Many questions still abound for the Texans. Will they survive long-term as an FCS independent? Will they eventually join a different conference? What about the rivalries that they will leave behind?
All these questions can only be answered in time. For now, we’ll watch as Tarleton State proves that they belong in Division-I and the WAC.