BELTON- The American Southwest Conference lost another long-standing member on Thursday, when the University of Texas-Dallas announced a move to NCAA D-II and the Lone Star Conference. The Comets will make the transition in the fall of 2025, pending approval from the NCAA D-II Council.
UTD plans to apply for D-II membership in February, and once accepted to the D-II level, will begin a three-year provisional period.
UTD’s acceptance of the LSC invite means that the ASC will be down to just five full-time members for the 2025-26 athletic year. Currently, UMHB, Hardin-Simmons, East Texas Baptist, Howard Payne, and LeTourneau remain in the conference and have not announced intentions of moving elsewhere. However, sources have indicated that all five universities are currently exploring other options considering the present instability of the league.
Since 2021, the ASC has lost Louisiana College (now Louisiana Christian) to NAIA, Belhaven to the Collegiate Conference of The South, Sul Ross State to D-II (in 2024-25), and McMurry, Concordia (TX), and Ozarks to the SCAC (in 2024-25).
In the press release, UTD athletic director Angela Marin noted that because of the school’s long history in the ASC–they were a founding member of the conference in 1998–joining the LSC was a difficult decision. “We are delighted to be joining the Lone Star Conference as we transition to NCAA Division II,” said Angela Marin, UTD’s Director of Athletics. “We thank the American Southwest Conference and its members for 25 memorable years. Our decision to depart the ASC was a difficult one, but we believe this is an exciting opportunity for our institution.”
UTD has long been one of the most successful universities within the ASC, despite not sponsoring football.
The baseball program won its first conference title in 2018 and claimed consecutive titles in 2021 and 2022.
Under head coach Terry Butterfield, who retired on June 20, the men’s basketball program captured four ASC titles and made seven NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching the Elite Eight in 2009.
Women’s basketball also quickly made a name for itself, having won five conference championships, including this past year’s ASC Tournament, With Polly Thomason leading the program, the Comets qualified for the national tournament in four consecutive years from 2017-2020.
Volleyball has led to the most success for UTD in any sport, as the Comets established themselves as a national power with four championships in five years from 2015-2019. They won the last two ASC titles and have reached the NCAA Tournament nine times since 2008.
In total, the Comets have won 43 ASC titles, including 2022-2023 championships in women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s golf, women’s golf, and women’s tennis.
“The LSC’s core values of competitive and academic excellence, student-athlete well-being, respect, leadership-building and community service, align with ours at UT Dallas,” Marin said in the press release. “It is an opportunity to build new rivalries and rekindle old ones with programs with rich, athletic traditions.”
This news comes shortly after UTD began the first phase of its $30 million facility upgrade, “including a new track & field facility, and upgrades to the baseball and soccer fields.”
It is important to note that this move had been anticipated for quite some time. UTD was the only school in the University of Texas system not competing at the D-II or D-I level, and its 17,000-undergraduate enrollment makes it unique to the D-III level. But it does not diminish the importance of this announcement to the ASC’s future.
While the league has three years to add two football-playing schools in order to avoid losing its automatic qualifier in football, UTD’s departure also puts the conference’s other sports below the minimum number for an AQ, starting in 2025. As a result, it limits the possibility of some sort of football-only agreement with affiliate members, as the conference now needs to add at least one full-time member by 2027-28 in order to maintain its AQ in all sports except for football and women’s golf (UC-Santa Cruz is an affiliate member for women’s golf, so that sport would have six schools).
Also be sure to check out the story from D3Sports.com on UTD’s move to D-II: https://www.d3sports.com/notables/2023/07/ut-dallas-to-d2