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Tag:WAC Expansion
Posted on: July 15, 2011 1:26 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 1:47 pm
 

Football "not on horizon" for newest WAC member

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

What we mentioned Tuesday as a foregone conclusion became official Thursday as the WAC and commissioner Karl Benson welcomed the beleaguered league's 10th member, UT-Arlington.

The announcement gave UTA president James D. Spaniolo the chance to answer the million-dollar question concerning the league's football future: Now that the Mavericks have got their FBS conference membership locked up, will they restart their football program, dormant since 1985? That answer, for the time being, is "oh heavens no":
"We have not closed the door to football, but it's not on our immediate horizon," Spaniolo said. "We will look at that some time down the road, but we've got some other immediate priorities that need attention."
Translation: We told Benson we'd think about it, since we really wanted this for our hoops team. But it ain't happening anytime soon enough to matter to him. Spaniolo essentially offered Benson the college football equivalent of "Yeah, that party sounds fun, we're doing something else but maybe we'll stop by afterwards."

Not that this kept Benson from the classic Jim Carrey "you're saying there's a chance!" response:
"We know President Spaniolo will take a good, hard look at (adding football) and the WAC is hopeful the answer will come back yes," Benson said.
Keep hoping, Karl. In the meantime, it's time to check out what football schools you could add in the Central Time Zone before geographically-awkward, football-prioritizing Louisiana Tech bolts; Benson admitted yesterday that he has not "ruled out" "any FBS, any FCS school that is in our footprint."

But with UTA taking a pass on getting back on the gridiron, if the two football schools Benson's promised wind up more along the lines of a low-profile FCS also-ran like, say, Lamar, the WAC center may still fail to hold.

Posted on: July 12, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 12:07 am
 

With UT-Arlington addition, where does WAC stand?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It is, by many accounts, all but a foregone conclusion: This Thursday, University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks will join the WAC in all sports but football. Their addition gives the venerable-but-reeling league 10 members total but still only seven for the 2012-13 football season.

UTA won't make it eight. The Mavericks gave up football in 1985 and, according to the Texas board of regents' agenda, "UT-Arlington’s invitation is not conditioned on starting a football program.” So why are we mentioning this development in this space rather than leaving it to our sister Eye on College Basketball blog?* Because UTA's addition nevertheless has the potential to dramatically reshape the reeling WAC's identity as a football conference -- either for the better, or the (even) worse.

A breakdown of both scenarios:

SCENARIO 1: Maybe the Mavericks haven't been interested in football before. But WAC membership might change the equation, thanks first to the bump in television money and exposure, and secondly to the natural rivalries UTA would enjoy with fellow FBS start-ups UT-San Antonio and Texas State. The Mercury-News's Jon Wilner reported this week that UTA "believes there’s money to be made in the FBS and in the WAC."

If the Mavericks do decide to take the plunge, Wilner outlines a possible dream future for the WAC. With three different guaranteed opponents in nearby Texas, Louisiana Tech (and its potentially wandering eyes) would be mollified; North Texas might look at the number of Texas brethen available in the WAC (not to mention the Bulldogs) and jump ship. The WAC would then be able to bring aboard another basketball-only member to reach 12 schools total, while still offering its nine football programs a clean eight-game round robin. And if commisioner Karl Benson could lure away a prominent FCS program like Montana, so much the better.

Unfortunately for the WAC, that scenario isn't nearly as likely as ...

SCENARIO 2: UTA might have better prospects for a hypothetical football program than before, but that doesn't mean the Mavericks are rushing into anything. "I don’t have any indication they have plans to add football," the commissioner of the Mavericks' former home, Tom Burnett of the Southland, told the San Antonio Express-News. "If they do decide that, it’s just a bonus for the WAC." The Express-News added that a second source indicated UTA football "has not been seriously discussed."

If that's the case, Benson may have some unhappy campers on his hands. Both Utah State and Louisiana Tech have made no secret of their desire for new football-playing members sooner rather than later, with the geographically outlying Bulldogs specifically asking for one closer to their Ruston home. If Benson can't convince the Mavericks to add football or find a Central Time Zone football school by the 2013 season -- and we're not sure if there's any realistic quality candidates out there, unless you count other Southland question marks like Sam Houston State -- Tech could decide to cut their losses and head for the Sun Belt. At that point, with just six football schools, the WAC would be on the edge of unraveling.

The good news for Benson is that Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde expressed hope this week for the WAC and downplayed the Sun Bell speculation, citing -- of all things -- the Sun Belt's academics. Like the Bulldog fan quoted in that Shreveport Times article, Van De Velde is likely holding out hope that the Big East's expansion dominoes could open a spot for Tech in Conference USA.

If the Big East looks somewhere besides UCF (or the other C-USA schools rumored to be under consideration), though, Van De Velde's hand may be forced; will his school really want to remain in a conference with weaker competition, less exposure and substantially greater travel costs?

Though it remains to be seen, we're skeptical. Thursday's UT-Arlington addition could be the start of the WAC's new Division I foothold ... or the final flailings of a league destined for the FBS history bin.

*Which you really ought to be reading as well, and don't just take our word for it.



Posted on: September 29, 2010 7:36 pm
 

WAC targets: UTSA, TSU, Denver, Seattle, Montana

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Last week, we mentioned that the WAC was entertaining two potential new members in UT-San Antonio and Texas State as part of the conference's quest to, well, save itself. The WAC has only six members lined up for the 2011 season, and while the NCAA will recognize the WAC and allow its members postseason bids if a group of at least five schools have been in the same conference for the five prior years is there, six just won't cut it when it comes to actually making schedules.

At any rate, we weren't terribly impressed by UTSA or TSU, but were intrigued by commissioner Karl Benson's statement that there were three other schools that would be presenting to the WAC during their meeting in Dallas this week. It was intriguing mainly because, well, who would they be? All of the FBS schools in the WAC's central region are in the Mountain West or Pac-10, and both of those conferences were acquiring schools during the latest conference realignments, not losing them. Now we know the rest of them, and... well, it's a work in progress:

 

The league is studying the possibility of adding the University of Texas-San Antonio, Texas State University, the University of Denver, Seattle University and the University of Montana in the wake of losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference.

All five schools will remain on the WAC radar after a meeting of the league’s membership committee in Dallas earlier this week, though Benson left open the possibility that other prospective members “could come back into play” if there’s another round of conference realignment.

Interestingly enough, the school with the best football program of the bunch (which isn't saying much, since three don't even have programs) is Montana, and they didn't put together a formal presentation for the meetings because they were still waiting on the results of a study into whether it's worth their time to move from FCS to FBS designation. Instinctively, the answer to that question is yes; Grizzlies fans routinely pack Washington-Grizzly Stadium at a capacity of a little over 25,000, so even if the WAC or NCAA want capacity expanded, there'll probably be butts in the new seats. But we'll see what the study says.

Past that, the Universities of Denver and Seattle wouldn't even bother fielding football teams (wise), so while they could very well be smart additions for every other sport, they're not going to help fill out a conference schedule when the time comes. That's why, barring the re-entry of new schools into this discussion, we think UTSA and Texas State will end up joining the conference: at the end of the day, you need guys on the gridiron.

And no, those aren't particularly impressive candidates, but you know what? If anyone's acutely aware of how non-AQ the WAC is, it's the WAC, and at the very least they're not wasting anybody's time by publicly courting Oklahoma State or the like. The WAC is what it is, and Benson's just embracing it these days.

Posted on: September 20, 2010 8:49 pm
 

UTSA, TSU hope WAC likes the idea of 'Texpansion'

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Following the impending exodus of Nevada and Boise State, the WAC looks to be in dire straits; the most high-profile member remaining will be, like, Hawaii -- and that's not the football program it used to be by any stretch. But if the WAC's expecting great candidates to step forward to fill the voids being left, they're probably not going to be blown away by the schools presenting themselves to the WAC at a meeting later this month:

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said Texas State and UT-San Antonio will make presentations to the league's membership committee at its Sept. 28 meeting in Dallas. The membership committee is comprised of the athletic directors from the six remaining members of the WAC (Idaho, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech San Jose State, New Mexico State and Utah State).

Benson said he expects no decisions at the meeting.

On paper, the two schools are actually attractive targets. They're both on the high-population corridor of I-35 in Texas between Dallas and San Antonio, and their enrollment numbers are huge: TSU boasts over 32,000 students, and UTSA has over 28,000 of its own. Big schools with tepid academic standards and huge television markets? Again, on paper, decent fits.

What separates the schools, however, is the ability to invest heavily in athletics. UTSA has recently pushed forward with expansion plans in athletics, and they're starting a new football program next season with Larry Coker at the helm. Most notably, UTSA will be playing in the Alamadome, and having a high-profile stadium ready and waiting will be a huge boost for the young program -- especially if they want to join a conference that isn't, like, the Sun Belt. The real question, of course, is whether the program can be ready for WAC play by 2012, the date Benson set forth for getting back to eight members. Year 2 of play and already in FBS? Best of luck, sirs.

Texas State, meanwhile, is stuck in a 30-year-old, 15,000-seat stadium -- and their paltry $87 million endowment isn't going to be able to make much progress on that front. Sure, it's great that TSU wants to make the move up to I-A, but if they don't make the proper investments in the program and its infrastructure, they'll just be a farther-west version of Florida International or Western Kentucky: teams that jumped up a sub-division for no real reason.

At the end of the day, though, if the WAC says yes to either of these two schools, it won't be doing a whole lot to immediately rectify its new "have-not" status.

 
 
 
 
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