Abilene Christian University is returning to the Southland Conference that it helped found nearly a half-century ago.

On Saturday, Abilene Christian announced it will rejoin the Southland on July 1, 2013, and begin the transition from the Division II ranks to Division I.

The Southland will have 14 members beginning with the 2013-14 school year, including recent additions New Orleans, Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word.

Abilene Christian was one of five schools to form the Southland in 1963, but it moved into the Lone Star Conference for the 1972-73 school year.

The Wildcats will participate in 16 of the Southland's 17 sponsored championships, including eight men's sports, basketball, baseball, cross country, football, golf, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field. On the women's side, ACU will compete in eight sports, basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

Abilene Christian's football team will begin a Southland schedule in 2014 and become eligible for the FCS playoffs in 2017. The Wildcats have made the Division II playoffs in each of the last six seasons.