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BushWACked by departures, whither the remaining schools?

Let’s face it: the Western Athletic Conference, as it’s currently constituted, is dead.  It has ceased to exist as a conference, both technically and in the realm of any reasonable thought.

The six teams left standing are a veritable Who’s Not collection of fringe mid-major football schools — at best — with little cachet left following the departures of Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada for the Mountain West, presumably after the 2010-2011 school year.

Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Hawaii, San Jose State and Utah State?  There’s little doubt that these schools are fine, fine institutions of higher learning, but, when it comes to football, the Sun Belt now scoffs in their general direction.  And chuckles, with a giggle thrown in for good measure.

So, just where does the conference go from here?  Commissioner Karl Benson is expected to hold a press conference at some point Thursday, at which time it’s expected he’ll address the future of his league and any type of salvaging plan they’ve cobbled together in the past 24 hours.

Aside from the obvious of just outright abandoning the conference and allowing the remaining schools to fend for themselves — especially if BYU decides to remain in the Mountain West and not take their non-football sports to the WAC — the WAC will have to look at plucking schools that are currently members of other leagues.  The most obvious candidate for plundering would be Conference USA in general and their Western division specifically.

Houston would be the obvious prize out of that group, with SMU and their cash-flush rebuilding efforts not far behind.  The former would seem an unlikely candidate for departure right now, if for nothing more than there’s a possibility that either the Mountain West (most likely) or the Big 12 (kinda, maybe) could have their eyes on the Cougars in the not-too-distant future; the latter school would appear to be a good candidate, although they may not want to abandon their natural in-state conference rivals.

Beggars can’t be choosers — and right now the WAC is a panhandling fool — so they could be forced to focus their attention on two of the following four schools to get to the NCAA-mandated level of eight schools: Rice, Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP.  Would either of those four schools leave the relative stability of C-USA for the uncertainty that is the WAC?  Not to mention the additional travel expenditures that would come along with it?

If C-USA is out of the question, the attention may turn to the Sun Belt.  With Louisiana Tech already in the WAC fold, perhaps Louisiana-Lafayette and/or Louisiana-Monroe would be an option.  With the exception of getting to the minimum of eight schools to technically form a conference, do those to Louisiana programs add anything — besides travel expenses — of value to the conference?

Of course, there’s always the option of cannon-balling into the Div. 1-AA pool and see what comes ashore, which brings us full circle back to the original premise: the WAC is on life support and, barring what seems right now would be a more-than-minor miracle, will have the plug pulled.

Thus, if the WAC ceases to exist, what happens to the individual schools?  There are two seemingly no-brainers when it comes to the dissolving of the WAC and what happens to the current members.

One, Hawaii would be odds-on favorites to go the independent route.  It’s been discussed in the past and, if they suddenly found themselves conference-less, would be the likely path for the foreseeable future.  The other no-brainer would be Louisiana Tech to either Conference USA or the Sun Belt.  The former already has 12 schools, so the numbers would have to be worked around, while the latter would likely welcome LaTech with open arms and a couple/few cases of beers.

As suggested to me by one of the fine editors at NBC Sports.com/MSNBC.com, two of the remaining four schools could potentially drop down to Div. 1-AA.  Idaho and Utah State, at least geographically, would be a perfect fit for the Big Sky conference.  Dropping down a level would not be optimum, but they could be left with no other choice.

That leaves San Jose State and New Mexico State.  Godspeed, higher-learning institutions.  Godspeed. 

Of course, if the reports come to fruition and BYU does indeed strike out as a football independent and drops their non-football sports into the WAC, the conference may suddenly become attractive again and they could very well, with the BYU draw, pull in an additional two schools, thus staving off extinction.

So, BYU, the ball’s in your court.  You have the power to save or kill an entire conference.  No pressure at all.

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Respond to “BushWACked by departures, whither the remaining schools?”
  1. teke184 says: Aug 19, 2010 12:12 PM

    “That leaves Fresno State and New Mexico State. Godspeed, higher-learning institutions. Godspeed. ”
    You mean San Jose State. Fresno’s jumping to the MWC.

  2. hrmlss says: Aug 19, 2010 12:22 PM

    They could add 6 Division 2 schools, and be a “Super Conference” with a championship game and everything…….maybe a TV Deal with Versus……….

  3. grandavenue says: Aug 19, 2010 12:35 PM

    Restructure the whole thing.
    6 — 16 team conferences
    6 conference champions seeded on many factors including strength of schedule.
    The major bowls host the playoff games, and the champion is the team that can win on the field against the best each conference has to offer.
    Why the hell not? The money they would get, because EVERY school would have a legit shot at getting at least close to the title game. Conference games would be even more important, and so would your schedule. Scheduling bad games just to make sure you hit 6 wins would no longer be acceptable.

  4. edgy1957 says: Aug 19, 2010 12:39 PM

    First of all, John, Tulsa – been there, done that – no thank you, sir. :)
    Houston can be had but most likely ONLY by the MWC, if they don’t choose to take Hawaii. If they move to the WAC then LA Tech to Conf USA and if not, LA Tech goes to the Sun Belt.
    Idaho, New Mexico State, Hawaii, San Jose State and Utah State can continue on by looking to FCS Montana, Montana State, Portland State with a long shot of Idaho State.

  5. allmaddenjack says: Aug 19, 2010 12:50 PM

    I don’t think anybody would notice if any of these schools dropped football.
    Anybody still think of Long Beach State and Santa Clara University? Yeah, didn’t think so.

  6. edgy1957 says: Aug 19, 2010 1:01 PM

    I meant that if Houston moves to the MWC not the WAC.

  7. bofarr says: Aug 19, 2010 1:10 PM

    SJSU has been close to dropping football before but they still have donors and trustees from when San Jose was a competitive west coast team 30-40 years ago that keep them on life support. Sadly they would probably be better off dropping down a division into the Championship series.

  8. edgy1957 says: Aug 19, 2010 1:16 PM

    allmaddenjack says:
    I don’t think anybody would notice if any of these schools dropped football.
    ********************
    They damn sure would if Hawaii did.

  9. sactoking says: Aug 19, 2010 1:57 PM

    The WAC is dead. No intelligent school President would join a conference that has travel requirements to Louisiana and Hawaii. It doesn’t matter where you’re located, that sucks up way too much of a non-powerhouse school’s budget.

  10. Opinionated Fool says: Aug 19, 2010 2:04 PM

    How ’bout Montan… I’m sorrry, I couldn’t say that with a straight face. Ha ha ha. Poor Grizzlies.

  11. blitz4848 says: Aug 19, 2010 2:20 PM

    Montana wasn’t funny—they could beat at least 1/2 of the schools mentioned….now that’s funny.

  12. MN Boise Fan says: Aug 19, 2010 2:39 PM

    The WAC could turn themselves into a Sun Belt equivalent. Not glorious by any stretch of the imagination, but something that can survive – if they get rid of Hawaii and LaTech. Those two are just too much of a travel burden. But a conference that would cover just the Mountain and time zone plus San Jose? Yeah, thats pretty doable. But theier glory days, if thats what the last few years were thank to Boise State, are probably over for right now.

  13. edgy1957 says: Aug 19, 2010 3:03 PM

    MN Boise Fan says:
    they get rid of Hawaii and LaTech. Those two are just too much of a travel burden.
    *********************
    LA Tech – yes; Hawaii – no. Let’s not forget that Hawaii would present a bigger stadium for them than they would for Hawaii and they represent an extra game for them to act as cannon fodder for the Pac-10 and MWC that would help with expenses for the trip.
    Hawaii is better off without them not the other way around. There’s no doubt that as an independent, Hawaii could either play all of its games at home so that teams could take advantage of the exemption or they could get a lot of attractive teams to allow them to play a majority of their games at home (7 or more).

  14. MN Boise Fan says: Aug 19, 2010 3:43 PM

    edgy:
    To expect a, say, Montana or Montana state to absorb the costs of moving up a level, just to spend insane amounts of money to travel to Hawaii and Louisana several times per year for various sports seems like a tough pill to swallow. But I’ve always felt the WAC’s footprint was too big-the last 2 days haven’t caused me to form that opinion.
    Hawaii is definitely a one of a kind case, with the whole 13th game thing going on. Not quite sure how to fit them in best in any scenario

  15. edgy1957 says: Aug 19, 2010 4:18 PM

    MN Boise Fan says:
    edgy:
    To expect a, say, Montana or Montana state to absorb the costs of moving up a level,
    ************************
    I hate to tell you but Montana HAS played in Hawaii (1947, 1971, 1972, 1982 and 2001) and so has Montana State (1947 and 1976), as have several others that are now 1-AA, Div-II and Div-III. Hawaii has played AT LEAST 7 home games since forever and until they joined the WAC, they were playing 8 to 9 games at home (11 straight during one 2-year period and 12 straight during another).
    LA Tech makes no sense to them and they absolutely don’t make sense to LA Tech because the stadiums would get even smaller because of the loss of the teams like Fresno State. Hawaii is more relevant because they have a 50,000+ stadium but what’s left makes no sense to THEM. A trip to Hawaii would be a SELLING point to recruits and it would mean that they could take their lumps on the road with an extra game.
    Hawaii works, either in the MWC because of the extra game or as an independent because it gives them the opportunity to schedule a lot of high value teams at home.
    BYU has no use for this group as well because of the fact that there are no real financial benefits to them and the league would need them more than they would need the league.

  16. MN Boise Fan says: Aug 19, 2010 4:46 PM

    edgy: more sports in the WAC, and in Hawaii and Montana, than just football.
    Hawaii’s “50,000 seat stadium” is a dump. And have they even consistantly filled it?
    Could Hawaii go back to having all these teams come in for thier 13th game by being an independent? Sure. But how empty is that “50,000 seat stadium” going to be after several 1-11 seasons in a row?
    And who’s coming in for these games? SEC teams aren’t going to leave the southeast, except on very rare occasion. Big 10 will eventually go to a 9 game conference slate, so scheduling a trip when you’ve already got 5 conference road games every other seasons is tricky, even with the extra game. Its a logistical nightmare, no matter which way you slice it.

  17. edgy1957 says: Aug 19, 2010 6:01 PM

    MN Boise Fan says:
    edgy: more sports in the WAC, and in Hawaii and Montana, than just football.
    *********************
    Yep and guess what — teams have actually gone to Hawaii to play — gasp.
    That 50,000+ “dump” is better than anything that the others have and yet, that “dump” also attracts teams like USC (4 home games for Hawaii, 2 road) while Idaho (7 road, 1 home (1925)), Louisiana Tech (1 road, 0 home), New Mexico State (0 road, 0 home), San Jose State (4 road, 0 home) and Utah State (4 road, 0 home) have hosted the Trojans a combined — wait for it — 1 times. That “dump” also has hosted the Pro Bowl for most of our lifetime.
    They averaged 36,000+ and part of that is because they didn’t have a good team and their home schedule had 3 stinkers. Take them away and they drew 39,000+ for Boise State, Fresno State, Navy and Wisconsin. Even then the worst that they drew was 31,000 for Utah State and drew 33,000+ for Central Arkansas (When June Jones was there, they filled up the stadium).
    This is a bowl game for every team that goes there. As an independent, they would be able to offer a home and away for any team that wants to but most will opt for a couple of games in Hawaii because it means an extra game that they can host and you can damn sure bet that the alumni will plan their whole year around that trip. Why do you think that Notre Dame has no problem going there for a bowl when they’ll turn down other bowls for not being worthy? Hell, the Fighting Irish have played them 3 times – ALL in Honolulu.

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