Finding a Home for the UIW Cardinals

Incarnate Word will join NCAA Division I in 2013, but the school's men’s soccer team still needs a home
by Chris Hockman   |   Friday, February 22, 2013

Defending The Fort - column on San Antonio Scorpions (SASFC) & the San Antonio soccer scene.

On Aug. 20, 2012, a landmark day came for University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) as it announced it was joining the Southland Conference and thus promoting to NCAA Division I.

Their teams will not be eligible for the NCAA postseason until 2017-18, but they are going to be playing DI opponents in 2013-14 as they will be handed a Southland schedule prompting plenty of joy for most teams.

Most of that joy is because Southland doesn’t currently sponsor men’s soccer, in addition to other sports UIW currently participates in (swimming and diving and synchronized swimming).

Avid San Antonio readers will remember the Southland Conference as the former home of the University of Texas Austin. In fact, that is why UTSA do not have a supported men’s soccer team despite their pending move to Conference USA.

Speaking with UIW officials, they have confirmed that they expect the men’s soccer program to play a DI schedule in 2013 but currently do not have a home.

So the question remains. Where will they play?

There are currently 22 conferences that sponsor men’s soccer and a 23rd will be added next year in the Western Athletic Conference.

Of those 22, most are much too far to the Northeast to really enter into consideration and some, like the Ivy League, are much too exclusive. This leaves about four potential homes for UIW.

The first, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, actually contains two divisions but will likely contract in 2013 as it stands to lose almost all of their teams to the WAC in 2013.

That could mean the conference will fold, having served its purpose of giving schools without a conference somewhere to play, or they could continue and be actively searching for members, making UIW a possibility.

The West Coast Conference is also an option since its almost entirely based in California and Oregon, alongside BYU in Utah. It’s not as bad as some of the travel in the other conferences, but may prove too much for UIW and so is only a remote possibility.

The final two possibilities are very real chances. The first is in WAC, which will commence its first season of men’s soccer in 2013.

While it is the first season for the league, it is made up predominately of schools that are already WAC members and have been playing in other conferences. As a result, the competition will be a significant step up but is suitably regional so could help UIW.

Conference USA is the final real option for UIW, but it could very well be the best one with all the teams based in the South but not on the Pacific coast.

Conference USA is the only league that has a Texas rival in it in Southern Methodist, out of Dallas, which could be a big rivalry.

The other significant benefit of Conference USA would be that it could send a strong message to San Antonio’s other DI school, UTSA, which joins the conference in other sports, including women’s soccer in 2013-14.

A men’s NCAA Division I rivalry in San Antonio is an exciting prospect. Of course UTSA has not expressed any desire to commence men’s soccer yet. But if UIW does well on and off the field, it could well force their hand.

Chris HOCKMAN

Nationality:
Australia
College:
Univ W. Sydney & Youthworks Coll.
Club Domestic:
Houston Dynamo, San Antonio Scorpions, Austin Aztex
Club Foreign:
Central Coast Mariners
Originally from Australia found football (or soccer as you Yanks call it) a great connection in a new country. Freelance writer since 2005 covering Australian and US Soccer. Based out of San Antonio but can regularly be seen in Houston, Austin and Dallas.
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