• July 11, 2024

Getting to Know the Southland: Football

Getting to Know the Southland: Football

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The Southland Conference has established itself as a strong football league in recent years, with two teams either ranked or receiving votes at the end of 2023 and a national champion as recently as 2020-21.

Sam Houston won the 2020-21 FCS Championship. The Southland found itself right back in the final four two years later as Incarnate Word was ranked No. 3 in the nation en route to the 2022 FCS Semifinals. Incarnate Word has been ranked in the top 25 in three-straight seasons, finishing at No. 14 in 2023, and No. 12 in 2021.

Nicholls, which won the Southland in 2023, was receiving votes in the final polls.

In 2024, Southland Conference football will consist of nine members, including Houston Christian, Incarnate Word, Lamar, McNeese, Nicholls, Northwestern State, Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern, and Texas A&M-Commerce.

UTRGV will hold a practice year in 2024 before taking the field for the first time in 2025, increasing the Southland football membership to 10. UTRGV will, however, participate in the 2024 Southland Conference Football Opening Drive, featuring head coach Travis Bush, freshman running back Brennan Carroll (San Antonio, Texas/Roosevelt High School), and freshman linebacker Jaxson Maynard (Bulverde, Texas/Smithson Valley High School), on July 22 in San Antonio.

New Orleans and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the other full-time members of the Southland, do not compete in football.

Among current members, McNeese has won a league-best 14 conference championships, followed by Lamar, Nicholls and Northwestern State with four each, and Incarnate Word, Southeastern and Stephen F. Austin with three each.

With an office based in Frisco, the Southland Conference is the reason the NCAA Division I FCS National Championship is contested in Texas, hosting the football title game in Frisco since 2010. The Southland has already secured the championship game through 2025.

The Southland has made its impact on the NFL as well, with 11 alumni on NFL rosters in 2021 and seven in 2022. Houston Christian’s Caleb Johnson made his NFL debut with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023.

The Southland had two more student-athletes selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, including Houston Christian’s Jalyx Hunt (Philadelphia Eagles, round 3, pick 94) and Texas A&M-Commerce’s Levi Drake Rodriguez (Minnesota Vikings, round 7, pick 232). The Southland was one of only two FCS conferences to have multiple players drafted in 2024.

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