The Summer of 2010 was one of the craziest in sports history. Specifically, in college football. (As if Lebron and Bosh to Miami, Brett Favre flip flopping, and all other media haydays weren’t enough).
Now, as fall has arrived and college football has finally begun, all questions seem to be answered. Nebraska to the Big 10, Utah and CU to the PAC 10, Boise State, Nevada, and Fresno State to the MWC, and BYU to go independent.
One question, though, still looms out west – What will be the future of the Western Athletic Conference?
Brief history lesson folks. WAC commissioner Karl Benson, upon losing WAC football crown jewel Boise State to the MWC beginning Sept. 1, 2011, decided to have the remaining 8 schools agree to stay intact and unified (obviously in the hopes that would thwart any future raiding of WAC teams). Well, all the University Presidents agreed to stay unified, that is, until the MWC came knocking again. This time for 3 more – Fresno State, Nevada, and Utah State.
Long story short, Fresno State and Nevada jumped ship immediately while Utah State upheld their agreement with the WAC and declined the offer.
Needless to say, Benson was less than thrilled about this treachery and has now filed a lawsuit against the two fleeing schools claiming that they were required, as WAC members, to give notice of departure by July 1st, or else, they would be required to stay until the 2012-13 academic year.
Nevada fired back demanding that the lawsuit was agreed upon by only 6 of the 9 members of the board (Nevada, Fresno State, and Boise State presidents not being among them).
Obviously this lawsuit would only be a temporary fix to a long-term issue. Even if the WAC were to win their claim, Nevada and Fresno State would be out by 2012. So what will become of the WAC?
First of all, they will have to find replacements since the minimum required number of schools in a Division 1A conference (for football) is 8 schools. I think the WAC will look at the upper level Div. 1AA schools that fit the region (Montana, Weber State, or Idaho State).
The issue the WAC should be most concerned about is what Utah State now plans to do. Shortly after Nevada and Fresno State accepted their MWC invites, Utah State tried to talk Commisioner Craig Thompson into re-extending that invite. So far nothing has developed from that.
The reason Benson should be worried about Utah State departing is this: what Boise State is to WAC football, Utah State is to WAC basketball (and co-eds, but that’s another story).
If I had to guess, if the WAC doesn’t find decent replacements for the departed schools, you can expect the 2011 season to be the last for the WAC and possibly the last season for a few WAC schools as Division 1A schools (I’m lookin at you San Jose State, New Mexico State, LA Tech, and Hawaii).
Utah State will find a home somewhere, whether it be a re-invite from the MWC, Conference USA, etc. The basketball program is too elite to let slip.