The WAC commissioner spent 80 minutes on a conference call Thursday explaining why his conference would survive.
He mentioned several schools by name that would be interested in joining -- Cal-Poly, Cal-Davis, Sacramento State (already a member in baseball), Texas-San Antonio, Texas State, Montana. The WAC staff was checking what the minimum number of teams it takes to have a I-A conference. I checked the NCAA Manual a while ago and it's confusing. Not sure by the by-law if it meant six teams for a division, or six teams for a league.
However, the WAC wants to bulk up to at least eight.
Benson called the defection of Fresno State and Nevada "disappointing" and "selfish." On Wednesday, the commissioner thought he had secured BYU as a non-football member. On Thursday, his league was fighting for its life. The Mountain West raided the WAC for Fresno and Nevada as a preemptive strike to keep BYU from leaving. As of Thursday, BYU was considering its options. The school's move to independence is, in fact, not a done deal.
For a guy who has given blood in trying to keep his conference together, it was a bitter day for Benson. There are only two teams left from the last year of the old 16-team WAC in the late 1990s (San Jose State, Hawaii). From that he built a league that sent its champion to a BCS bowl three times in four years.
"We will be successful, Benson said.
"I fully expect Utah State or New Mexico State to jump from the pack and go to a bowl [in 2010]. I won't be surprised at either of those teams," he added.
What the WAC might look like in a couple of years:
San Jose State -- almost dropped football a few years ago.
Hawaii --pondering independent status itself?
Idaho -- Robb Akey led Vandals to 2009 bowl
Louisiana Tech -- Let's just say Derek Dooley got out at a good time
New Mexico State -- Named by me the worst I-A program in the country a couple of years ago
Montana -- could be the next Boise State
Texas State -- see above
Utah State -- the state of Utah could have a Pac-10 team (Utah) an independent (BYU) and this WAC member