When we last left the #ZombieWAC, it was on life support after the near-death experience of almost losing Utah State and San Jose State to the Mountain West. That followed on the heels of seemingly getting a new lease on life that would allow it limp forward for some time as an Island of Misfit
Mascots Division I Programs From West of the Mississippi.
That was January. Since then, things have been relatively quiet on the WAC expansion/defection front. But today, news! The University of Denver has a new non-football partner in the otherwise football-focused league: the University of Seattle.
The Western Athletic Conference today announced that an invitation for membership has been issued to and accepted by Seattle University to join the conference effective July 1, 2012. … With the addition, the WAC will consist of nine full-time members for the 2012-13 season; Denver (non-football), Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Seattle (non-football), Texas State, UTSA and Utah State.
For those keeping score at home, that’s nine schools total, but only seven football schools. So, for the moment at least, my Twitter sub-genre of jokes about invitations to “join the WAC as its eighth football school” remains intact. Huzzah! Anyway…
“We are pleased to announce that Seattle University is joining the WAC,” said Commissioner Karl Benson. “Seattle’s tradition and history along with a strong commitment to academics, its athletics program and their facilities make the university and its top-15 media market a great fit for the WAC. We look forward to a beneficial and successful relationship.”
Not invited to join the WAC? Utah Valley University, which had made a pitch to get in, but was smacked down today. That’s right: UVU was just rejected by a league that was itself rejected by North Texas and Montana, and that reportedly covets such powerhouses as Sam Houston State, Sacramento State and Cal Poly. Someone put that school’s athletic department on suicide watch, because man, that’s depressing.
Remember to donate any unused, unwanted Division I schools to the WAC’s collection bin at your local supermarket.
Meanwhile, a blog post last week by the Mercury-News’s Jon Wilner suggests the WAC isn’t done yet:
My sense is that the WAC will take a two-phased approach to expansion — Benson indicated as much last month but declined to discuss specific schools.
Phase One (according to sources): Invite Seattle next week to join for the 2012-13 school year.
Phase Two: Invite multiple schools, including those that play football, next June (for 2013-14).
The delay would allow prospective football members to resolve the massive financial and/or political issues that come with jumping from FCS to FBS.
(Lamar, Sam Houston State, Montana and Montana State, Sacramento State and Cal Poly have all been discussed by WAC officials as potential targets.)
Because when I think “the next Boise State,” I think… Cal Poly!
Speaking of which:
Yes, the WAC has been much maligned … the butt of fan/media jokes … since the announced departures of Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii.
Jokes? About the WAC? Impossible!
But when assessing the WAC’s future, remember two things:
1) A number of FCS schools and D-I basketball independents want to join the conference, and
2) For a slew of reasons, including the educational and athletic opportunities that come with playing major college sports, the NCAA wants the WAC to survive.
My guess, when all is said and done, is that the conference will have 9 or 10 football schools and 10-12 basketball schools.
But it will take a few years to get there.
So basically, the WAC really is a zombie conference, just like the “zombie banks” of 2009, kept solvent solely due to the largess of an institution that didn’t want it to fail: in that case, the federal government; in this case, the NCAA. The WAC: too big to fail??
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