April 28, 2012
WAC back on life support as UTSA leads next wave of conference realignment
Late last night, RowdyReport.com posted big news for UT-San Antonio faithful. It was findings in the agenda for the UT System Board of Regents to give UTSA authorization to accept an invitation to join Conference USA. This morning, the venerable Brett McMurphy has spoken, and now Louisiana Tech, Utah State, and San Jose State all seem to be headed to new pastures in 2013. The WAC is on life support, at least as a football conference.
I had heard rumors that Utah State, who is set to reveal new logos and uniforms later today, might also have an announcement about the Mountain West. I'm not sure if that will come today, but I have been told by a source that USU AD Scott Barnes told some boosters this week that an announcement will come in about two weeks that will be "very important" for the school, and something he has been working on his entire tenure. Brett McMurphy -- as always -- looks to be right yet again.
So who is left in the WAC? To play football, that leaves just New Mexico State, Idaho, and Texas State. It seems plausible that NMSU could end up in the Sun Belt, a conference it was in from 2001-2004. I honestly have no idea what Texas State's options are, and Idaho, whether the Vandals like it or not, may only have the Big Sky as a football option. Perhaps Texas State would join NMSU in the Sun Belt to help replace FIU and North Texas.
One must also reconcile what Mike Price, UTEP football coach, said three days ago to Jack Arute on satellite radio. Price didn't announce UTEP would be in the Mountain West, but when asked what he felt might happen, he seemed to think it was a likely possibility. Whether or not this affect San Jose State remains to be seen.
There is the question, of course, on whether or not the WAC can survive as a basketball conference. This is something Boise State might have a keen interest in, as it is set to bring its non-football sports back to the conference as football moves to the Big East in 2013. It is possible, in my opinion, that New Mexico State could join the Sun Belt in football only, but keep other sports in the WAC for financial/travel reasons -- if the WAC can survive. Given that, here's what WAC basketball looks like:
CURRENT, REMAINING MEMBERS
New Mexico State
SET TO JOIN JULY 1, 2012
SET TO JOIN JULY 1, 2013
If Texas State somehow stays, that would be 7 schools; if not, than 6. The likeliest expansion targets would be Utah Valley and CS-Bakersfield, both of whom have already pitched the WAC for invites in the past. This eight-school basketball conference could survive.
Or, there is the prospect of complete annihilation. If the above scenario isn't tenable, NMSU would take hoops to the Sun Belt with football. UTA and Texas State would likely, if allowed, go back to the Southland Conference. Denver and Seattle would need to furiously pitch the West Coast Conference, as they are the only schools in this discussion who fit the WCC profile.
That leaves Idaho and Boise State. The Big West has already said it is not interested in Boise State, wanting to maintain it's hyper-geographical setup (imagine that!). Neither school fits the WCC profile even remotely. So ... that would leave the Big Sky. The Big Sky would need to decide whether or not it wants to become a massive, two-division hoops league. With North Dakota and Southern Utah already set to join, the Big Sky is an 11-school hoops conference. Additions of Boise and Idaho would make 13. By the chance the WCC says no thanks to Denver and Seattle, they could make 15. Utah Valley could be an appropriate final addition to get to either 14 or 16.
That last bit, of course, is all speculation. WELCOME BACK TO #EXPANSIONCRISIS2012