Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Future Of The WAC, Part 2

Another fate the Western Athletic Conference may face in the next couple years is dissolution. If just one of the current six teams leaves, the Western Athletic Conference will cease to exist. Lets take a look at some scenarios facing the six current members should the WAC disappear:
Hawaii has talked about going independent. This would make sense due to their isolation and the fact that their football culture differs greatly from their fellow WAC teams. However, Hawaii would be financially drained by leaving the WAC. The WAC guarantees they will get home games and manageable opponents to beat up on. If Hawaii were to go independent, they may end up playing up to nine games of their thirteen-game season on the mainland. Scheduling would be difficult, as few teams want to travel to Honolulu. There is a reason why Hawaii is the longest standing member (31 years) of the ever-changing WAC: no other conference would want them due to geography.
San Jose State is likely to get lost in the fold if the WAC does break up. There is really nowhere for the Spartans to go. Lower-tier FBS conferences aren’t as abundant out West as they are back East. The Mountain West hasn’t shown any interest towards San Jose State, and the Spartans haven’t been relevant since the 2006 New Mexico Bowl, their only bowl game since 1990. San Jose State has been in the WAC since 1996 and is currently the second-oldest member; they have had to stay put due to mediocrity.
Idaho is in a similar boat to San Jose State. Idaho’s options are limited by its geography, and the Mountain West hasn’t shown any interest towards the Vandals. Idaho had previously been a member of the Sun Belt from 2001-2004, perhaps this would be the best route for the Vandals even with the long trips to the southeastern part of the United States. The Vandals finished 8-5, including a bowl victory over Bowling Green last season. A team that has tasted success at the highest level of college football definitely would not be interested in moving back down to the FCS, despite Idaho having problems meeting NCAA attendance requirements and being a smaller school.
New Mexico State is probably the likeliest of the WAC schools to drop back down to the FCS. The Aggies’ football program has struggled over the years. Wait, to say that would be an understatement. New Mexico State has only had four winning seasons since 1967. The university has cut funding and the team now relies on its fans for snacks. If the Aggies would like to continue playing in the FBS, the Sun Belt would be an excellent fit for them. After all, the Aggies were a member of the Sun Belt from 2001-2004.
Utah State was invited to the Mountain West Conference, but declined the day before Fresno State and Nevada accepted invitations to the Mountain West, thinking the WAC teams would stick together. It is unsure whether Utah State will be invited again, but the excellent basketball team, great academics, and improving football team make Utah State a desirable addition. The Aggies have been in the Sun Belt 2003-2004 and independent 2001-2002. If the Aggies were to rejoin the Sun Belt, they would be one of the best teams perennially. Independence would be unfavorable for Utah State.
Louisiana Tech always seemed like an odd fit given it being so far east from the rest of its conference mates. Louisiana Tech would have the easiest time adapting if the WAC were to crumble. The Bulldogs could easily fit into the Sun Belt with two other Louisiana schools or Conference USA as a way to counterbalance the impending arrival of Charlotte into FBS football. Louisiana Tech could be the seventh team in the C-USA West, while Charlotte could be the seventh team in the C-USA East. If the MWC chose to go to twelve teams, Louisiana Tech and Utah State would be strong candidates. The Bulldogs had been independent 1996-2000. However, they are undoubtedly better off joining a conference should the WAC fall.

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