Survival is WAC’s Leading Goal
By Paul Myerberg // Jun 19, 2011
The most damning statement regarding the future of the WAC came from Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton, who told The Idaho Statesman that his conference “is in a better place” than the much-maligned F.B.S. league. Fullerton’s comments come on the heels of a report that six Big Sky universities – Montana, Montana State, Cal Poly, U.C. Davis, Sacramento State and Portland State – had been contacted by the WAC in an effort to replenish its depleted ranks, which currently includes only eight football programs. One member, Boise State, is already gone; three more, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii, join the Broncos in the Mountain West in 2012.
Fullerton didn’t stop there: he went to note that he’s interested in adding Utah State and Idaho to his league, which would cause two F.B.S. programs – two programs that lack options – to downgrade to the F.C.S., which is almost an unfathomable idea. Programs don’t move back, is the logic.
But just look at what the WAC will have in 2012, as the league currently stands: Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State. The latter pair transition to the WAC from the F.C.S.; U.T.-San Antonio is only now transitioning to college football, having recently christened its program under the direction of former Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker.
So what happens to the WAC? One thing is clear: this will be the worst conference in college football. That’s not news. But let’s not draw the curtain on the WAC just yet, throwing out a league that still has a future, albeit not a bright one.
The WAC could choose to tread water with this eight-team format – hold on for dear life, taking its lumps as a untalented, dismissed league — while keeping its eyes out for the next Boise State. There’s another Boise State somewhere: maybe it’s a Big Sky team, perhaps it’s even one of the two Texas teams added into the mix in 2012.
The WAC could do that, but that would demand that it hold onto the chips it already holds. Louisiana Tech is one chip. That the Bulldogs are in the WAC at all is a bit ridiculous; the Bulldogs play in Louisiana, after all, and in terms of geography are a far better fit for Conference USA. And they’ll head to Conference USA if that league comes calling, it’s safe to say.
I think San Jose State is another chip, if only because it gives the WAC a foothold – a toehold, rather – in California. Even Idaho, Utah State and New Mexico State are chips in their own way. Each are part of the F.B.S., which makes them valuable in their own right.
So where will the WAC be in 2013? If commissioner Karl Benson can hold onto his current chips, the WAC will still be swimming around, treading water while its former powers move up the ladder in the Mountain West. It will be an eight-team league that needs to find five non-conference games, which will be a struggle but not necessarily bad for the bottom line: a New Mexico State can schedule another blowout loss to a B.C.S. conference team, drawing a nice paycheck for a struggling athletic department.
And all the while, Benson will keep looking for a ninth team with potential. A team that isn’t much now but may, like a Boise State, turn into a team that eventually defines this conference, saving its life for another day. That’s really all the WAC can hope to do. Now, if a Louisiana Tech heads to Conference USA, or an Idaho or Utah State head to the Big Sky, or San Jose State joins the Great West, or New Mexico State joins the Southland – if that happens, we can get the WAC’s tombstone ready.
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Tags: Big Sky, Boise State, Doug Fullerton, Idaho, Karl Benson, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio, Utah State, WAC
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