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Tag:Utah State
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: November 19, 2010 9:57 am
Edited on: November 20, 2010 8:38 am
 

WAC tries to stay alive

The Western Athletic Conference will attempt to soldier on despite an apparent death blow Thursday night. Hawaii's reported defection to the Mountain West weakens the WAC but it doesn't kill it, according to WAC commissioner Karl Benson.

Hawaii apparently has a deal to leave the WAC after 32 years -- to play football in the Mountain West and all other sports in the Big West -- according to overnight reports. That would leave the WAC with only seven members in football and eight in basketball beginning in 2012. The WAC's Division I basketball membership would be affected first. Per the NCAA's "continuity-of-membership" clause each basketball conference needs a minimum of six Division I members who have been together at least six years. Beginning in 2012, the year Hawaii reportedly will leave for the Mountain West, the WAC will have only five such members.

However, Benson said pending NCAA legislation will allow the WAC to keep its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"We're anticipating the new NCAA legislation that is expected to be adopted in January that eliminates the continuity-of-membership issue," Benson said Friday morning.

Told of Benson's comments, one Division I-A official said, "I can't imagine that that [legislation] would get through."

The league's BCS membership (as a non-automatic qualifier) is unaffected at least through the current television contract that goes through the 2013 season (2014 bowls). The BCS does not require a minimum number of conference members, according to Benson.  Benson said the NCAA requires a minimum of eight conference members but that is only for NCAA governance purposes. The WAC could still compete in football with the seven members. The league would not be listed as Division I-A.

"It [number of members] doesn't matter for this contract," said one person familiar with the BCS process. "It remains to be seen what happens in the next contract."

However, the WAC is not done adding members, Benson said. Montana and Cal-Davis have been mentioned as possible WAC additions.

"Our plan today is to get back to eight football-playing members," Benson said. "That still will be our goal."

The WAC recently added emerging I-AA programs Texas State and Texas-San Antonio. Both begin WAC play in 2012 as I-A members. Denver was added in basketball only. The WAC had to make a move after losing Nevada, Fresno State and Boise State to the Mountain West in the last few months. Hawaii will move to the Mountain West in 2012 giving that conference 11 members.

Benson said his league was in the process of allowing Hawaii to compete in the WAC in football only and putting all its other sports in another conference. Instead, Hawaii went for the Mountain West deal. The MWC is chasing an automatic BCS bid -- at least temporarily in 2012 and 2013. That pursuit was hurt by the loss of Utah to the Pac-10 and BYU going independent.

This is the current membership of the WAC

Boise State
Nevada
Fresno State
Hawaii
Louisiana Tech
Utah State
Idaho
New Mexico State
San Jose State

This is what the WAC membership could look like in 2012 if Hawaii leaves

Denver (basketball only)
Texas State
Texas-San Antonio
San Jose State
Idaho
New Mexico State
Louisiana Tech
Utah State
 

Posted on: October 4, 2010 12:46 pm
 

National notes

Before we begin, here is your daily dose of Les Miles. Actually, it's the only dose of Les Miles you need for this week. If you learn anything more from this postgame video about Saturday's Unlucky 13 vs. Tennessee, let me know.


**A warning going into Week 6 ...

There is a real chance almost halfway through the season of an unprecedented logjam at the top of the BCS -- six undefeated conference champions, four of them in BCS leagues.

It's early but there is some separation and definition to the season after five weeks. Alabama is clearly the class of the SEC. Nebraska and Oklahoma are undefeated in the Big 12, and can't meet until the conference championship game. Ohio State's trip to Wisconsin in a couple of weeks suddenly looks less daunting. Boise State is going to rush through the WAC. TCU and Utah are likely to decide the Mountain West head-to-head. Oregon looks like it is going to run away with the Pac-10.

If all that happens, here is one projection of how the final BCS standings might look. Is too early? Never. The first BCS standings will be released in two weeks.

1. Alabama: With all the talk about the Pac-10's strength this season, the SEC still rules. The Tide are all but assured of playing three more ranked teams -- South Carolina, LSU and Auburn.

2. Oregon: Pollsters are already falling in love with the Ducks despite a dicey strength of schedule to this point.

3. Ohio State: Like Alabama, likely to play three more ranked teams (Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan). If you think the Big Ten's strength will carry the Buckeyes into the top two, think again. Oregon's offense is stronger and will make a stronger case, especially on the road where Jim Tressel seems to play conservatively.

4. Big 12: I am well aware that Kansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri are also undefeated making it five in this league. I'm also projecting that, regardless, this is where an undefeated Big 12 champion would end up if everyone else wins out. Among the five Big 12 undefeateds: Kansas State plays Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Missouri plays Kansas State, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Nebraska plays  Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Oklahoma plays only Missouri and Okie State. The Cowboys still have Kansas State, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

5. TCU/Utah: The Mountain West race will come down to the teams' Nov. 6 meeting in Salt Lake City. If either finishes undefeated it will most likely finish ahead of an undefeated Boise.

6. Boise State: There was bad, bad news for the Broncos on Sunday. They were jumped in both polls by Oregon for No. 3 in the rankings despite having superior accomplishments and super schedule strength to this point. Oregon has played a I-AA (Portland State) and a team that might as well be I-AA (New Mexico). Boise has played two ranked teams, one in the top 10 on the "road" (Virginia Tech at FedEx Field).

For the previous two weeks Boise, at No. 3, had gained on No. 2 Ohio State and pulled away from the No. 4 team. After one week of WAC play -- against admittedly horrible New Mexico State -- the voters have fallen in love with Oregon and are already damning the Broncos for their schedule.

There are 18 remaining undefeated teams. Five of those (28 percent) are in the Big 12. By the end of this week there will be 16 because of head-to-head meetings (Michigan State-Michigan, Nebraska-Kansas State). Also, by the end of the week a maximum of 11 teams will have the possibility of finishing undefeated because of assured head-to-head games. After this week only four undefeated teams will be alive in the Big 12; three in the Big Ten. Only one undefeated team (at most) will be able to come out of the Mountain West, Pac-10, SEC and WAC.

**Texas is out of the AP poll for the first time in 162 weeks (2000). The streak in the coaches' poll had lasted 192 weeks. Texas, 3-2, still has games left against Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M meaning it could be headed for its worst season since before Mack Brown arrived in 1997.

**TCU posted its first road shutout of an opponent in Gary Patterson's 10 years as head coach, 27-0 at Colorado State. That's significant because Patterson is a defensive wizard whose teams have finished tops in total defense each of the last two seasons.

**Speaking of the Horned Frogs, the interest in the Big East is apparently real and reciprocal. TCU could join the league as soon as next season. One reason: There is no financial penalty to leave the Mountain West.

**Poor Jaime Hill. The BYU defensive coordinator was fired after Friday's loss at Utah State. You expect that in the SEC, but at BYU? Hill joined the staff from the CFL in 2006 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008. BYU, 1-4, is off to its worst start in almost four decades.

Some other d-coordinators who might want to watch their backs:

Tyrone Nix, Mississippi. The Rebs got upset by Jacksonville State giving up 49 points and got beat by Vandy, 28-14. Had to hold off Kentucky 42-35 on Saturday. Rebels allowing almost 33 points per game.

Doug Mallory, New Mexico. Not really fair because his future is tied to embattled head coach Mike Locksley. The Lobos have allowed a I-A-most 35 touchdowns and 52.6 points per game.

Co-coordinators Keith Patterson/Paul Randolph, Tulsa. The Hurricane gave up 51 points at East Carolina, losing on the last play of the game. Oklahoma State put up 65 on Tulsa which is 106th in pass efficiency defense.

Ray McCartney, Wake Forest. His defense has given up 68 points to Stanford, 24 touchdowns in five games and 36.8 points per game.

**Team Schizo: Washington has lost to the worst BYU team in years, got run off its home field by Nebraska and now has beaten USC in consecutive seasons.

**Team Schizo II: Kansas lost to Baylor by almost seven touchdowns, 55-7, in Waco. Not even the locals care about Baylor, a Big 12 doormat. There were an estimated 15,000 empty seats at Floyd Casey Stadium. It's bad when your team is intimidated by the Bears.

"When I went out there, they were bigger than I thought,” KU linebacker Steven Johnson told the Kansas City Star. “I’m just like, ‘What in the world are they eating?’ ”

Posted on: August 23, 2010 2:44 pm
 

Have the BCS and BYU talked regarding access?

You have to assume that BYU's schedule as an independent is not a problem. At least not as big a one as I believed in the beginning.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported last week that it was a "done deal" that BYU's football program was going indy. You don't get that far down the road without having a reasonable idea that there will be enough teams to schedule. Whether the WAC lives or dies, there's still a chance to play four to six of the remaining teams. Notre Dame could be sprinkled in every now and then. Throw in the two service academies, Army and Navy. That still leaves, at least, four games remaining.

But, again, I'm going to assume BYU has that figured out.

The real reason that BYU is in Purgatory West, rather than the Mountain West at this point is TV revenue. It's no secret the administration is not satisfied with The Mtn., the league's four-year old network which has yet to turn a profit. BYU may be talking to ESPN for both carriage of some of its games and as a partner to line up opponents as an independent.

The questions might be: What kind of deal is ESPN willing to do with BYU as an independent vs. what kind of break MWC will give BYU in terms of television exposure outside The Mtn.

Another huge reason for BYU's waffling, it is becoming clear, is its BCS access. It can line up a schedule. It can get more games on ESPN. But the only way it gets closer to a BCS bowl without having to go back to the MWC hat in hand, is to get easier access to the BCS. I have reason to believe BYU and BCS parties have talked. Could it be about improved access? As an independent BYU, along with Army and Navy, would have worst access to a BCS bowl. Those three teams would have same access point: Ranked No. 1 or No. 2, automatic. Other than, no automatic access point. Those three teams would be eligible if they finished in the top 14 of the BCS. BYU finished No. 14, its highest BCS finish, in 2009 and still was trumped by Florida, Iowa and Boise State as at-large teams.

 Remember, there are only four available at-large spots (out of 10) for independents. The other six spots (seven if Notre Dame qualifies) are taken up by the BCS conference champions.

The feeling is that BYU would have gone independent and placed its minor sports in the WAC had Craig Thompson not plucked Fresno State and Nevada. Now BYU has to determine if it wants to put its minor sports in the WAC (what WAC?), the West Coast Conference or the MWC. In the case of the last option, it's doubtful the MWC would allow BYU to put its minor sports in its league if football was independent.

Right now, no one has full leverage. BYU can't find enough games, improved access or more television money at the moment. The MWC doesn't want to lose BYU because it might lose The Mtn. Thompson wouldn't confirm there is language in the contract that allows The Mtn. to dissolve if Utah and/or BYU leave. That, however, is the assumption.

We are in Day 5 of a strange standoff.

For entertainment purposes only here are BYU's games already scheduled through 2014 (source: San Jose Mercury News).

2011

Utah
Oregon State
Texas
Utah State
Games needed: 8

2012

Oregon State
Utah State
Boise State
Hawaii
Utah
Games needed: 7

2013

Texas
Boise State
Hawaii
Utah
Games needed: 8

2014

Texas
Boise State
Utah
Games needed: 9

Posted on: August 19, 2010 2:19 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2010 2:30 pm
 

Karl Benson says WAC will go forward

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
Posted on: November 21, 2009 3:19 pm
 

Early notes

How do we evaluate Tebow and Ingram today playing against air? Tebow threw for a couple of touchdowns and ran for another against Florida International. Ingram ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns in limited action against Chattanooga.

Good Lord, it looked like a Utah State game at Doak Campbell. Not FSU playing Utah State, a game AT Utah State. There have to be at least 30,000 empty seats. Florida State survived Maryland 29-26 meaning Bobby Bowden will probably return in 2010 for a grandiose farewell tour.

Rich Rod will be back too at Michigan. You give him another year after the 21-10 loss to Ohio State. Then you let the new AD, whoever that is, make the decision. Bill Martin won't be gone until June and is on record as supporting Rodriguez. The problem is, Michigan most likely is going to have change cultures again if it makes a change. Summary: Don't look for the Wolverines to be in the national picture for at least the next four years.  

Posted on: October 29, 2009 5:00 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2009 5:01 pm
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

New Mexico coach Mike Locksley is back after being suspended for a week for punching an assistant. After losing $29,000 in pay, Locksley returns in time for the winless Lobos to go to San Diego State ... The nation’s leading rusher, Fresno junior Ryan Mathews, is weighing his NFL options. Mathews says if he is rated in the top 40 he might go. The Bulldogs host Utah State ... The last time Georgia beat a No. 1 team was 14 years ago in the Cocktail Party, 24-3 over the Gators …

 For all the hype over USC-Oregon we’ve forgotten about Arizona. The Wildcats, off this week, control this own destiny in the Pac-10. They are the only Pac-10 team not to get to the Rose Bowl … Rapper Li’l Wayne has referenced Tennessee’s coach in his new song “Banned from TV.” A sample lyric: “Smoke weed, talk (bleep) like Coach Kiffin,” …

Clemson (4-3, 3-2) controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic but first it must get bowl eligible. There will be progress toward that goal this week against Coastal Carolina … Further on the Clemson tip: C.J. Spiller is now tied for the NCAA career record for kickoff returns for touchdowns, six …

Duke (at Virginia) has back-to-back conference wins for the first time since 1994, which also happens to be the last season the Blue Devils went to a bowl … Ohio State stages a scrimmage this week. New Mexico State is last in total defense and second-worst in scoring … As of late Thursday, Cincinnati (at Syracuse) still didn't know if quarterback Tony Pike will be able to go.

 

Posted on: October 23, 2009 11:24 am
Edited on: October 24, 2009 9:49 am
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

Montana coach Bobby Hauck has disgraced his profession. Wonder why the American Football Coaches Association hasn't weighed in on this issue...Let's see, because it condones this conduct by ignorning it. Bullying students, real nice Bobby ... 

Let’s see, the SEC officials blew in the Florida-Arkansas game. Then, Bobby Petrino is reprimanded for reminding them that they blew it. The SEC can’t suspend the officials and reprimand Petrino at the same time. Only the SEC can tell Marc Curles he is wrong?

 There’s tough and there’s SEC tough: Since suffering a broken jaw and concussion on Oct. 3 against LSU, Georgia tailback Caleb King has missed one game while subsisting on a liquid diet. King scored two touchdowns against last week against Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs are off this week before the Cocktail Party on Oct. 31.

 Whatever happened to that Sam Bradford press conference to announce his future? Love this stat: Three starting Big 12 quarterbacks have started against Texas. Three Big 12 starting quarterbacks have not finished this games.

 WWL saw USC’s Matt Barkley on some Heisman lists this week. Check the Pac-10 first. Barks isn’t even the best freshman quarterback in his own league. Stanford’s Andrew Luck has thrown for almost 1,600 yards with nine touchdowns.

Pittsburgh’s Dion Lewis (fourth in rushing) is the only freshman in the top 22 in rushing.

 National rushing leader Ryan Mathews of Fresno State is on pace to rush for almost 2,000 yards. Four of the six rush defenses he will face the remainder of the season are ranked 98th or worse against the run (New Mexico State, Utah State, Louisiana Tech and Illinois).

Looking ahead to next week:  Florida-Georgia in the Cocktail Party. Dawgs get to rest up this week. Florida is at Mississippi State. Tebow plays his last Georgia game.

 USC at Oregon. Trojans haven’t won in the state of Oregon since 2005 and need this one to stay in the Pac-10 and national championship hunt. Beavers, though, could end USC’s seven-year run of dominance with a win.

Texas at Oklahoma State. Cowboys thought they should have beaten the Horns last year in Austin. If they win in Stillwater, Pokes take control of the Big 12 South.

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