News broke yesterday that the Denver Pioneers will be leaving the WAC for seemingly more stable pastures in the Summit League. Today, it is expected that Grand Canyon University will announce its intention to reclassify its athletics to Division I and join the WAC as Denver's replacement.
Even with such an addition, many questions abound for the WAC and its very unstable future.
In the last few months, the WAC announced the additions of Utah Valley University and Cal State Bakersfield to the conference for the 2013-14 athletic year. Based on those additions, the 2013 roster would consist of those two schools, plus Idaho, New Mexico State, Denver, and Seattle.
But as Grand Canyon is set to join this unstable fold, a key question is: Will the NCAA agree to some sort of waiver to allow GCU -- who would be Division I's first for-profit member -- to count toward the WAC's membership requirements regarding postseason tournament bids? Moving up to Division I is usually a 3-4 year process. Will GCU as a sixth member count toward the WAC keeping its NCAA tournament bid?
And even if the NCAA allows that, what does the WAC do for 2014 and beyond? Idaho has agreed to stick around for one more year, but is still taking all its non-football sports to the Big Sky in 2014.
That leaves the WAC with five members yet again, two of which would have classified to Division I within the last few years. Does the WAC gobble up remaining Great West teams like Chicago State or Texas-Pan American and survive as the lowliest of all Division I conferences? To remain as a conference, the WAC can exist with six teams through 2014-15, then must add a seventh team for 15-16.
To me, it seems the WAC is merely trying to survive through the 2013-14 season so it can collect exit fees from Utah State, San Jose State, Denver, UTSA, UT-Arlington, and Texas State. Idaho, having stuck around for its payday, will then happily move its non-football sports to the bedrock that is the Big Sky, NMSU will try to beg into the Sun Belt (or perhaps become a longshot 12th team in the Southland as it adds Houston Baptist), and Seattle and Grand Canyon may likely have to exist as independents.