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HBU and UIW make the leap to Division I

I wish them luck.

One of Dr. Louis Agnese’s earliest recollections of the University of Incarnate Word’s athletic program was quite memorable — and not in a good way.

In 1985, his first year as president of the school, Agnese said he went to watch a basketball game at the university’s Wellness Center. The game was canceled.

“It was stopped because of rain,” Agnese said, referring to water being on the basketball court.

Nearly three decades later, the school’s athletic program has a much brighter appeal.

UIW officially joined NCAA Division I and the Southland Conference on Monday, celebrating the occasion with a campus ceremony that included coaches, athletes, cheerleaders, alumni and fans.

The Cardinals were one of four schools making the move to the conference, joining Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist and the University of New Orleans to make up a 10-team league.

“We think this is a great partnership for the future of the Southland Conference,” SLC commissioner Tom Burnett said. “There are great days ahead for this university. We are as excited as can be.”

I had previously noted UIW’s interest in making the leap to Division I here and here, with Abiliene Christian (formerly College, now University) being mentioned in the latter link. HBU began its move at about the same time. Here’s the Chron story on their first day in the SLC.

Houston Baptist athletic director Steve Moniacci has been attending Southland Conference meetings for a year and a half.

At his next one, he’ll finally get to vote.

HBU officially became a member of the Southland Conference on Monday for all sports except men’s soccer. It makes the move from the Great West Conference.

[...]

Moniacci said the biggest advantage of the move is that HBU will play regional league competition.

“We will have fans visiting our campus from other schools who have never had a chance to visit our campus,” he said. “It also increases the ability of our fans to go to league games that they have not been able to go to in the past.”

Rather than get on a plane and fly 1,600 miles to New Jersey Institute of Technology or 1,400 miles to Utah Valley, the Huskies can load up a bus and drive 90 minutes to Sam Houston State in Huntsville or to Lamar in Beaumont.

Moniacci said the school will save six figures in travel costs. That was before it added a football team, which almost doubles those costs.

You don’t often hear about schools saving money by going this route. I don’t know if that will be true in the longer term, but for now at least I’m sure HBU will be happy to not travel to New Jersey and Utah. Like I said, I wish them well in their new conference home.

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