Incarnate Word joining Southland Conference

The Southland Conference announced Monday that the University of Incarnate Word has accepted membership, beginning July 31, 2013.

The conference also previously extended an offer of membership to Abilene Christian, which was a charter member of the Southland when it formed in 1963.

Incarnate Word's membership will coincide with the San Antonio-based institution's four-year transition to NCAA Division I from Division II. The Cardinals will begin counting as an NCAA Division I team for scheduling purposes in 2014-15 and will be fully eligible for NCAA championship events in 2017-18.

Incarnate Word will be the Southland's 12th member and participate in all of the conference's 17 sponsored championships. In men's sports, they are baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field. On the women's side, they are basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

However, UIW's football program won't join Southland play until 2014.

"As many know, the Southland Conference presidents have studied the possibilities of membership addition, as well as the impacts of Division I conference realignment, for nearly two years," Southland commissioner Tom Burnett said.

"As is the case with other membership additions, the board has only shown interest in institutions that clearly bring added value to the league. That includes strong academic performance, athletic competitiveness and achievement, excellent playing facilities, geographic fit, media market size and presence in the market, and strong fan support. UIW is a historic and accomplished institution, and has the potential and resources to be a competitively successful member of the Southland Conference and NCAA Division I."

The Southland schools with football programs are Central Arkansas, Lamar, McNeese State, Nicholls, Northwestern State, Sam Houston State, Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin.

Current member Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and recent addition Oral Roberts do not sponsor football. Houston Baptist, which will become a member for the 2013-14 school year, will be adding the sport.