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Conference realignment: 10 FCS teams will reportedly join FBS ranks

Utah Tech and SUU are among 10 current FCS football programs that are creating a conference with the expectation of a move up to the FBS level

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Utah Tech kicker Connor Brooksby (43) celebrates after kicking a 47-yard field goal, putting his team up 3-0 over BYU, during the game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Currently, there are 131 football programs at the FBS level, divided among 10 conferences — the Power Five and the Group of Five.

The number of schools playing college football in the FBS could soon grow to 141, and the number of conferences to 11.

According to a report Friday morning by ESPN’s Pete Thamel, 10 current FCS programs — in the Atlantic Sun Conference and the WAC — have agreed to create a new conference with the express purpose of moving it to the FBS level.

It will be a football-only conference, sources told Thamel, and would move to the FBS ranks as soon as it is viable.

Per Thamel, the founding documents for the league state the group means to move “from what is currently known as FCS football to what is currently known as FBS football at the earliest practicable date.”

The schools include:

  • Stephen F. Austin (WAC)
  • Abilene Christian (WAC)
  • Utah Tech (WAC)
  • Southern Utah (WAC)
  • Tarleton State (WAC)
  • Austin Peay (Atlantic Sun)
  • Eastern Kentucky (Atlantic Sun)
  • Central Arkansas (Atlantic Sun)
  • North Alabama (Atlantic Sun)

UT Rio Grande Valley, which just started a football program, will join the newly formed conference in 2025 as the tenth member (the other nine schools are expected to form the new conference starting in 2024).

The exact process of moving an entire conference to the FBS level is unknown, Thamel reported — there is a moratorium in Division 1 on single sport conferences — but ESPN sources expressed optimism that the move will work and be supported by the NCAA.

The newly proposed conference doesn’t yet have a name — documentation refers to it as “ASUN-WAC Football,” Thamel wrote — and there have been no discussions about how the conference would fit within the College Football Playoff, which will expand to 12 teams in 2024 and include the highest ranked Group of Five champion.

Current NCAA rules mandate that there be a two-year transition for FCS programs moving to the FBS level, another wrinkle in the process that has yet to be sorted out.