BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) — Lamar is going back to the Southland Conference after a short stay in the Western Athletic Conference, announcing plans Friday to return in the 2023-24 academic year to the league in which it was a founding member.

The school cited geography in its desire to return to the Southland. With an expansion set to kick in next school year, the WAC will have schools in California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Washington along with Texas.

“We are grateful for our time in the WAC, but we are thrilled for our return to the Southland Conference fueled by the league’s combination of dynamic leadership, membership stability, regional rivalries, and vision for the future,” Lamar president Jaime Taylor said.

The Cardinals football and men’s basketball teams went winless in conference play in their initial WAC seasons. They were 0-7 in conference games and 2-9 overall in football last season, while the men’s basketball team lost all 16 WAC games played and was 2-27 overall. The Lamar women went 8-10 in conference play in basketball.

Located about 85 miles east of Houston in Beaumont, Lamar first joined the Southland in football in 1964 and stayed until 1986. The Cardinals went independent for the rest of the 1980s before disbanding the football program.

Lamar restarted football in 2010, playing independent for a year before rejoining the Southland. The men’s basketball program left the Southland for 11 years in the 1980s and ’90s before returning in 1998.


The Southland will still have six football schools this year with Texas A&M-Commerce coming into the league and Incarnate Word set to leave for the WAC this summer. There are four Louisiana football schools in Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, McNeese State and Northeastern State. The other Texas team is Houston Baptist.

Three other former Southland schools are also part of the expanded WAC: Abilene Christian, Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin.

“The Cardinals were with us when our conference was born nearly 60 years ago, and we are delighted to welcome them back,” said Chris Grant, who was part of the announcement on only his fourth day as the Southland’s new commissioner.