This week’s announcement that Tarleton State University has accepted an invitation to join the NCAA Division I ranks as a member of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) brings up a number of questions about the transition and what may be expected in the new atmosphere.
TSU’s Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Ryan Cox told the Empire-Tribune that one change on the way will be that the Texans will be adding soccer as a sport.
The E-T reached out to TSU to ask additional questions about the upcoming move to Division I, and Athletic Director Lonn Reisman provided these responses:
Q: Prior to this, were there any other Division I conferences that Tarleton officials had been in contact with about the possibility of becoming a member?
Reisman: We explored other conferences and had talks but we felt like the WAC is a mid-major conference with national exposure and major media outlets with a much higher ceiling. The WAC is a better fit for enhancing the profile and visibility of Tarleton.
Q: Did the timing of the invitation to join the WAC come as somewhat of a surprise or were Tarleton officials expecting it to happen in this general time frame?
Reisman: We didn't have knowledge with how soon it was going to come but we were ready when they offered and are extremely pleased that the WAC felt that Tarleton is ready to make the jump and enhance their conference.
Q: When will Tarleton’s athletic programs be able to start participating in the WAC?
Reisman: We are in the early stages of working with the WAC office. Once the entire process is completed and the invitation to the WAC is accepted, the intent of becoming a full member is in July 2020.
Q: Was adding soccer required by the WAC in order to become a member or was that a decision Tarleton officials made for other reasons?
Reisman: We have been exploring adding soccer in past years. It's a great time and opportunity to add soccer because the schools in the WAC are already playing soccer and it helps enhance our athletic department.
Q: Will the addition of that sport mean that both men’s and women’s soccer programs will be added, and what will be the time frame for that?
Reisman: We are still engaging in conversation and will make an announcement in the coming months.
Q: Are there any other sports that may be added by Tarleton as a member of the WAC, such as men’s tennis or swimming/diving?
Reisman: Again, we are still engaging in that conversation and will make an announcement in the coming months.
Q: Has there been any discussion about the possibility football could return to the WAC as a conference sport in the foreseeable future?
Reisman: The WAC is diligently recreating a football conference that the conference was built on with its rich tradition of football.
Q: Without having a football conference to play in — and assuming that Tarleton will have to put together a schedule as an independent in that sport — how difficult might that be to find opponents?
Reisman: Texas is known for football. With all the FBS and FCS programs in the state and surrounding states, we feel like this will definitely give us our opportunities to build a football schedule that our fans will be excited about to see our football team play these opponents in the future.
Q: Are there any specific concerns anticipated with the travel distances for athletic events at the more distant WAC schools such as Seattle University, California Baptist and California State-Bakersfield?
Reisman: No, there's no concerns. We understood the travel when we looked at the WAC. We will be in major media outlets that won't just give Tarleton major visibility, but also the Stephenville community. This will give the Tarleton and Stephenville communities major visibility with these markets coming to town.
Q: What will the scholarship situation be like for Tarleton’s athletes at the Division I level?
Reisman: Our plan is to be competitive and have the scholarships that are necessary to make our teams competitive at the next level.