Tag:Fresno
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:05 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:08 am
 

A sad goodbye to Karl Benson & perhaps WAC

The enduring image of Karl Benson will be his practically skipping through the University of Phoenix Stadium press box on Jan. 1, 2007.

Boise State had just shocked Oklahoma, college football and the world. The commissioner of the Broncos’ league was along for the ride. Karl Benson, a former Boise State shortstop, had just seen the gosh-darndest thing in his life. Along with the rest of us.

He was proud that his lowly-but-proud Western Athletic Conference had taken advantage of the BCS rules to – put in terms of the conference’s marketing slogan – Play Up. Yes, the loosening of BCS bowl access rules in 2006 contributed to Boise’s rise. But it took the team’s performance on the field to convince the world that college football wasn’t the exclusive domain of the Big Six conferences.

WAC member Hawaii went to the Sugar Bowl a year later but the new wave punk band that was the WAC slowly broke up over the years. Boise State skipped from the Mountain West to the Big East. Others followed.

The plucky little conference that couldn’t be killed was on its death bed Thursday with the news that Benson had become the new Sun Belt commissioner. On the surface, Benson is trading a job at the 10th-rated conference in FBS to one rated 11th(and last in the division).

In reality, it is the latest shift of conference realignment tectonic plates. The 50-year old WAC that Benson leaves behind be damaged beyond recognition.  It was formed in 1962 in order to grab an NCAA tournament automatic bid – there were only 24 at the time. The Original Six included Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.  The current seven-team league (in football) could be absorbed like rain into the soil by some combination of Benson’s new conference and the emerging Big Country (Conference USA/Mountain West conglomeration).

It really depends on the intentions of the Big Country. 

Benson, 60, fought the good fight out West with dignity. Now it’s time to keep the Sun Belt alive and kicking. Time after time on the conference call announcing his hiring, Benson was not shy about saying he wanted the 10-member Sun Belt (in football) to grow to 12. At least. It doesn’t take too much to figure out where those two (or more) teams are going to come from.

As mentioned, in 2012 the WAC is down to seven teams, one above the NCAA minimum. The teams that emerged from that conference to gain BCS bowls under Benson’s watch – Boise State and Hawaii – are long gone. Just a guess but look for the Sun Belt to go after WAC member Louisiana Tech – if the Big Country doesn’t get to Ruston first. The New Orleans-based Sun Belt already has members at Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

“There are schools in the [Louisiana] footprint that would make sense,” Benson said.   

Other possibilities: Any combination of Appalachian State, Georgia State, Jacksonville State and Liberty. All four are moving up or in the process of moving up to FBS.  

Benson has literally held the WAC together by force of personality. First, reorganizing after half the then-16 team league left in 1999 to form the Mountain West. (He got the news lying down on the couch at home after eye surgery.) Then with the departure of Boise State (Mountain West, then Big East) as well as Fresno, Hawaii, Nevada (Mountain West) Benson hustled within the last year to add Texas State and Texas-San Antonio. The next FBS game those two schools play will be their first.

The pity is if in the end Benson was somehow forced out of the WAC. The conference owes its current existence to him. With the Sun Belt’s Wright Waters stepping down, the lowest-ranked FBS league is about to experience a rebirth. The so-called Group of Five non-BCS conferences (WAC, MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt) could to shrink to three.

In a way it consolidates Big Six conferences’ power. The apparent end of BCS automatic qualifying conferences in 2014 means that access to the game’s biggest bowls becomes more important for the “non-AQs” that Benson helped make famous.

“I often asked who is the next Boise State?” he said. “With my Sun Belt hat on, why not someone from the Sun Belt?”

 

WAC football membership in 2012

Idaho 
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Texas State
Utah State


Sun Belt football membership in 2012

Arkansas State
Florida Atlantic
Florida International
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
Middle Tennessee
North Texas
South Alabama
Troy
Western Kentucky


Posted on: January 2, 2011 6:46 pm
 

TCU's legacy both BCS and non-BCS

On the same day TCU received its first Rose Bowl bid, its stadium was demolished.

The two occurrences on Dec. 5 are actually related. In a strange way, the Frogs were in Saturday's Rose Bowl because Amon G. Carter Stadium was being demolished. The win over Wisconsin was a culmination of events that might have elevated TCU to being the best non-automatic qualifier in existence.

Part of the stadium was torn down as part of a $100 million facilities upgrade. Call it an overall upgrade, the biggest in school history. With the Rose Bowl win and a 13-0 season, TCU is on the edge of breaking into college football's elite. It certainly has passed Utah and Boise as the best non-BCS programs of the BCS era (since 1998). World's tallest midget status is a bit meaningless now, though, with TCU joining the Big East in 2012.

It will leave behind quite a legacy before starting a new one as one of the game's haves. Gary Patterson is a defensive savant but his teams have been tremendously balanced. Departing senior Jeremy Kerley was a dual threat as a receiver and returner. Quarterback Andy Dalton leaves as the winningest active quarterback in the game. His placement will be either Casey Pachall, a redshirt freshman, or Matt Brown, an Allen, Texas star who changed his commitment from Arizona in February.

Only 10 starters return with the loss of 26 seniors in 2011. But Patterson has been good at replenishing and rebuilding. Most of the 2010 recruiting class redshirted. Only three true freshmen played any significant time. This season marked the program's fifth in the last six with at least 11 wins. The residual gift from those victories will benefit both the Mountain West and Big East. BCS executive director Bill Hancock confirmed Saturday night that the leagues will each get credit for TCU's records in 2010 and 2011.

A four-year evaluation period for automatic BCS conference qualification has been adjusted to match up with TV contracts. That's why TCU will most likely help the Big East keep its BCS status and aid the Mountain West in getting its shot. If the MWC meets a series  of benchmarks it will get temporary automatic qualifying status in 2012 and 2013. That would help sustain the league despite the losses of Utah and BYU next season and TCU in 2012. Boise State joins the MWC in 2011. Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii (football only) will arrive in 2012.

As TCU AD Chris Del Conte said, that wasn't the MWC that TCU had joined or wanted to be part of in the future.

Some dope tweeted Sunday about TCU's weak schedule. While the MWC has been damaged by defections, it is on the brink of BCS automatic qualification because of the accomplishments of TCU, BYU and Utah. The Frogs have actively sought a tougher schedule in the Big East. Meanwhile, in the non-con Boise State comes to Fort Worth in 2011. Oklahoma and Virginia follow in 2012. There's a home and home with LSU in 2013 and 2014.

Let's see Ohio State (Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan this season in the non-con) match that.

Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:04 pm
 

Boise react

No matter what you think about Tuesday night's Boise victory over Louisiana Tech, understand this: There will always be criticism.

Boise is an outsider. It is a college football nerd to legions of the sport's fans. I listen to a nationally syndicated sports talk show out of Alabama on most days. Some of the listeners literally don't believe that Boise plays what we would call football. Really, it's that bad.

So even the perfect game by the Broncos is going to be picked apart. And the 49-20 win over Louisiana Tech was far from perfect. Start with the headline in the Idaho Statesman.

I'm not damning Boise. I think you know my stance by now. I'm a Boise BCS honk. I am saying they did themselves no favors on Tuesday night. If the Broncos want to play with the big boys, they'll have to endure the national scrutiny when they don't play their best. It's a fashion show for here on out and for long stretches Tuesday, the Broncos were wearing jorts.

The nation's No. 1 defense had its worst showing (394 yards surrendered) against a middling WAC team. There were two fumbles that came in the middle of Boise scoring plays. The 29-point margin of victory was the smallest in Boise's in three WAC games.  For the first time in a month quarterback Kellen Moore had to play into the fourth quarter.

"Probably not the cleanest version of ourselves that came out," Moore said.

The hardest part of the schedule may be approaching. The next four games come against the other WAC teams with winning records -- Hawaii, Idaho, Fresno and Nevada -- combined winning percentage:  .724. The worst part: Boise disappears off the national radar as the weekend approaches. The Sunday morning story is likely to be how six undefeated teams did with games on the road. If the right ones lose, then Boise will be the story again by Sunday night when the BCS standings come out.

Until then, the lasting impression from Tuesday night: Gosh, those jorts sure do look like they're tight.

 

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com