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By Brendan Loy DU

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.less than a minute ago via bitly Favorite Retweet Reply

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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Comments on "Seattle joins Denver as WAC misfits: league up to 9 schools, 7 in football; Utah State and the eight dwarves"

5 Responses to “Seattle joins Denver as WAC misfits: league up to 9 schools, 7 in football; Utah State and the eight dwarves”

  1. Howard Beale Says:

    Seattle University President Stephen V. Sundborg (SJ) wanted Seattle U to become the next Gonzaga, after former Seattle U philosophy professor Robert Spitzer (SJ) became the president of Gonzaga University and occupied his place of prominence while GU rocketed to national visibility.

    Well, today’s move shows that Seattle U is not going to become the next Gonzaga anytime soon. The West Coast Conference was the only sensible fit for Seattle U, and now that that’s kaput, it really calls into question Seattle U’s continued insistence on wanting to build up its athletic program when it doesn’t have jack squat in the way of facilities.

    It’s institutional hubris almost as worthy of LeBron.

    I can’t imagine Cameron Dollar’s thinking, “Ah, I want to stay here for the long haul!” today.

    Signed,

    Matt Zemek
    Seattle University Class of 1998

  2. David K. Says:

    I think the NCAA doesn’t want the WAC to fail because if it does it means less mid-major 1-A football teams and that means greater influence by the BCS 1-A teams and leagues.

    If the WAC fails because even more members get poached/leave (LTech for Sun Belt or C-USA, Utah State/New Mexico State/etc. to MWC) the remaining schools, even with more 1-AA additions may not feasibly be a 1-A level conference anymore. Honestly though I think Idaho and SJSU in particular might benefit from going to 1-AA.

    And thats the thing that makes it tough for football teams to want to join. Without enough 1-A schools remaining to help bootstrap the new members up, it might be difficult for the conference to do anything but drop down to 1-AA. From Denver and Seattle’s perspective its largely irrelevant. Without football programs they aren’t affected. Seattle was certainly willing to join the 1-AA WCC (i’m still surprised they weren’t invited back actually).

    At this point I think that if you are a WAC school in football you need to fight really hard to prove you are a strong enough program to warrant potential attention from the MWC/C-USA/Sun Belt in the future. The larger conference shfit I believe is coming in the next decade could see some of the stronger WAC members surive and the weaker ones end up back in 1-AA land.

  3. Brendan Loy Says:

    Matt/Howard (hey, see what I did there? Go Dawgs!), why are we assuming that the “West Coast Conference…[is] kaput”? Doesn’t this just mean Seattle determined it wasn’t getting a WCC invite by 2012, and joining the WAC — for the moment — was the better move than remaining independent? My understanding is that the WCC is biding its time as to any additional expansion beyond BYU. I strongly suspect Denver would jump at any WCC invite that might be offered down the road, and I suspect Seattle would do the same. It’s not like joining the WAC makes them somehow less attractive for such an offer. They’re just recognizing the offer isn’t forthcoming now, but they’re by no means foreclosing accepting the offer if it comes later. Or am I missing something?

    The WAC still stands at the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. But hope remains, while the Blue Aggies are true. :)

  4. David K. Says:

    I know Seattle U is a Catholic school, but its not like they are marrying the WAC, they won’t have to apply for an annulment to leave for the WCC :)

    I think Brendan’s spot on, without a WCC invite an imminent possibility they opted for plan B. For non-football schools the WAC is less risky too, if it has to drop down to 1-AA to stay solvent football wise it doesn’t change much for the non-football schools.

    As for facilities, well Key Arena is pretty good for a college basketball team.

  5. gmackler Says:

    Just as the University of Colorado was always miscast, being the Harvard of the Rockies, in the Big 12, where its peers were research Universities in “theory” only (save Texas) I think Denver and Seattle Universities will find an awkward fit in the WAC.

    In fact, I expect both Denver and Seattle to eventually find their way to their “natural” conference which is the WCC. In Seattle’s case it will be finding their way back.



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