ABILENE – Abilene Christian Football is playing an 11-game slate that features six home contests in addition to in-state road games vs. SMU, Lamar and Stephen F. Austin in 2021.

The Wildcats also will face Central Arkansas, Jacksonville (Ala.) State and Eastern Kentucky as part of a one-year scheduling alliance known as the WAC-ASUN Challenge. This alliance between WAC institutions Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin plus the three aforementioned ASUN institutions will provide an Automatic Qualification (AQ) into the NCAA FCS playoffs.

“I want to thank Commissioner Hurd and my fellow ADs for their hard work in evaluating all options and identifying important solutions that position the WAC for an automatic qualifier (AQ) and opportunity to secure multiple playoff bids,” said ACU Athletics Director Allen Ward. “The alliance with the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) will create one of the strongest FCS leagues in the country and provide important comparative advantages for the playoff committee to consider.”

The seven schools known as the AQ7 (ACU, EKU, JSU, LU, SHSU, SFA, UCA) will play a single round-robin with each institution having three home contests and three road contests. The team with the highest winning percentage among AQ7 games shall receive the automatic qualification to the FCS playoffs. In addition, a trophy will be presented to the conference that has the highest winning percentage against the other conference.

WAC members Dixie State and Tarleton State will participate in the joint schedule but will not be eligible for the group’s AQ due to their transition to NCAA Division I.

ASUN members Kennesaw State and North Alabama will continue to participate in the Big South Conference for the 2021 season and WAC member New Mexico State will continue as an FBS Independent.

“I’m very excited for our program to be moving into the WAC with Lamar, Sam Houston State, and SFA,” said fifth-year head coach Adam Dorrel. “As former Southland members, they’ll provide us some familiarity in what will be a uniquely challenging and competitive 2021 schedule.

“Overall, I like our schedule. This will only be the second time in my tenure that we get to host six home games at Wildcat Stadium, so that’s what I’m most excited about for both the fans and student-athletes.”

“It’s a challenging schedule, no doubt,” added Ward, “but I like the fact that we’ll have six home games and many opportunities for our fans to travel regionally and support our team. It’s a balanced schedule and one I believe our fans will enjoy.”

ACU kicks off its 100th season of collegiate football Saturday, Sept. 4 at SMU, which will be the first meeting between the schools since 1925. The Wildcats then come home Sept. 11 vs. Louisiana College, and tackle UT Permian Basin during Family Weekend on Sept. 18.

ACU closes September with the start of a home-and-home series vs. Lamar. The first game between the Wildcats and Cardinals will be contested in Beaumont on Sept. 25, while the rematch will take place Homecoming Saturday Oct. 16. In between ACU will play host to Central Arkansas on Oct. 2 and visit Eastern Kentucky for the first time on Oct. 9.

The Wildcats have their longest road trip (two weeks) following their Oct. 23 open date, visiting SFA on Oct. 30 and Jacksonville State on Nov. 6. They conclude their regular season schedule with consecutive home games vs. their longtime rivals from Tarleton State (Nov. 13) and Sam Houston State (Nov. 20).

The Tarleton and ACU rivalry dates back to 1920, and this will be the Texans’ first visit to Abilene since 2010 as the three most recent games were played in Stephenville (2011), Arlington (2012) and Frisco (2013).

The FCS playoffs are set to start Saturday, Nov. 27.

Game times and information on season tickets will be announced in the coming weeks.

“We’ll soon announce our season ticket plan for the upcoming season and start the renewal process,” said Ward. “I’m excited about our first year in the WAC and the opportunity to compete for a conference championship. Most of all, I look forward to seeing Wildcat Stadium filled with ACU fans cheering on our Wildcats. It’s a great place to watch college football and to experience our first season in the WAC.”