By David K.
Hawaii and the Mountain West are working toward a deal that would have the Warriors joining the MWC alongside Fresno State and Nevada (and, a year earlier, Boise State). I actually thought this sort of thing made sense, but it appears my idle speculation is turning out to be quite real!
However, unlike its fellow WAC ex-pats, the Warriors would join in football only. The rest of Hawaii’s teams would compete in the currently California-school-only Big West conference. There has been a preference among the non-football coaches to move to that conference, which they feel would make more sense than the WAC from a travel, competition and recruiting standpoint. However, the hang up was Hawaii’s football team, which would need somewhere to go. Although independence had been mentioned, there are strong benefits to joining an established conference, and this helps the Mountain West by adding another strong football program that has competed in a BCS game (although not well).
Although a good move for the Warriors and the Mountain West, it’s a crushing blow to the WAC, which had just announced expansion plans involving Texas State, UT-San Antonio, and Denver. Losing the Warriors would drop them below the threshold for maintaining an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, with only five continuous members of the required five-year time span. The WAC would be below this threshold from 2012-13 through 2016-17, regaining its status in 2017-18 if the new additions stick around until then. So, unless the WAC is able to get a waiver from the NCAA, they could be in for a rough few years.
This also means the WAC drops back to 7 football teams, and 8 in basketball, possibly 9 if they add Seattle U. Since Montana spurned their advances, the WAC has few remaining options to try and replenish its dwindling ranks, other than hoping the MWC gives the boot to some of its lowest performing schools in order to boost its BCS auto-bid chances — an option that WAC commissioner Karl Benson told Brendan last week is “not on our radar,” and that may not even be possible in the MWC’s bylaws — or pursuing members of the Sun Belt or Conference USA.
It’s also possible the MWC’s acquisition of Hawaii is a preemptive move to shore up the conference against the loss of TCU to the Big East, as has been rumored.
Who would have guessed that the most drama and excitement from the conferencepocalypse would be from the mid-majors and not the big boys like the Pac-10 and Big Ten?
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