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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Survival is WAC’s Leading Goal

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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  1. Tom says:

    Sorry, but latech doesn’t fit the profile of c-usa membership. To say latech is a better fit for c-usa is like saying UAB is a far better fit in the $EC.

    I think latech is stranded where it is. The Sun Belt might be a solution, but latech left on bad terms and has not endeared itself to the SBC membership in numerous actions it has taken. Latech and its administration is a bad actor and even if it were to swallow its pride and publicly request membership in the Sun Belt, it’s doubtful that there would be enough votes to invite them.

  2. Bob says:

    Tom is dead on. CUSA will not invite Latech, they simply do not fit their strategy. Latech is not in a populated area and bring no TV value. LSU dominates the media landscape of Louisiana and with fewer than 10,000 at most home games, Latech better hope the Sunbelt takes them in a year or two when the WAC folds.

    If the WAC survives, it will be by taking new upstarts wwith no TV value and it will die an even slower death.

  3. Ryan says:

    Latech is in a horrible position. Yes, the have less than 10,000 actually attend the majority of their games, but it’s the same case or worse for the other dregs of the WAC that have been abandoned by the quality programs. Utah State, New Mexico State, and San Jose’ State have all been threatened by the NCAA in recent years for not making the 15,000 minimum, and then there’s Idaho which plays in a blimp hangar which seats less than 15,000 for football. Bad Situation.
    Now the WAC, in desperation mode, is adding a FCS school which has never come close to averaging 15,000 and a school that has never even fielded any football team at all.
    Folks, this new WAC is a train wreck.
    Now, the next great savior for the WAC is another Southland school that’s infant program isn’t even FCS yet?
    Please, schools like these are exactly what FCS football is designed for. Split all these future WAC schools between the Southland and the Big Sky where they belong.

  4. Bryan says:

    Dont forget Seattle U was added to the WAC recently, as a non-football school so I can understand why they weren’t mentioned in here.

    Honestly the Big Sky might be a stronger football confrence right now which is crazy to say. Maybe if the WAC crumbles all of the Big Sky can jump to FBS status and pick up Idaho and Utah State.

    It is completely absurd, but I think that has a better long term chance of success than the WAC’s near future plans.

  5. Jeff says:

    While I agree that CUSA may not be pursuing LA Tech, the figures and information that Tom, Bob, and Ryan reported is wrong. Since I am a Tech alum and attend all the home games, I know the attendance figures are 100% inaccurate. LA Tech does not average less than 10K for home games. LA Tech averages around 17,500-18,500. Last year Tech averaged 19,400. You can check that information. I think the highest lately is around 23k for a home game, but they are no where close to 10K average. That is factually inaccurate, and it can be proved.

    As far as comparing LA Tech to UAB joining the SEC is also ridiculous. UAB is the 3rd option in the state with Troy and South Alabama chasing hard. LA Tech is the clear number 2 school in the entire state. Tech has shown year after year that they are athletically and academically above all other schools other than LSU. Tulane can barely fill the stands, and they have not been relevant in quite a while. The UL twins cannot draw anything. and they have had their highest attended games against Southern and Grambling State. ULM hasn’t ever had a winning season.

    LA Tech football was never in the Sun Belt either, so they didn’t leave on bad terms in that regard. So whereas there is some truth to the fact that LA Tech may not be #1 on the CUSA radar, the facts and figures listed here are inaccurate.

    And Tech in the WAC made sense when they joined. LA Tech was part of the eastern portion of the WAC with Tulsa, Rice, and SMU. Nowadays, the geography doesn’t help much. I don’t care if you state your opinions, but you should get your facts right.

  6. Adam says:

    While I agree the WAC will become the WeAC here very shortly some of the comments about La Tech are just false. La Tech averaged 19,485 people in attendance in 2010 according to NCAA records (http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/d47a560045aad7aab88ffc9080650d5b/2010_Attendance.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=d47a560045aad7aab88ffc9080650d5b). That is better than all but TWO Sunbelt schools, FIU averaged 19,808 and ulm played a home game against Arkansas in Little Rock (what a joke!) to get their average to 20,934.
    Now La Tech’s average is not good but it is twice what you guys are saying. FYI, La Tech average attendance in 2009 was 20K, 2008 18K, and 2007 18.5K. You can’t have a home game with 10K people and get those averages unless you play a home game in a much larger stadium in someone elses back yard.

  7. Chris says:

    Definitely not a Tech fan but it’s obvious the first few comments here were by people that are either very ignorant or have an agenda. Prop your own school up. No need to tear another one down. Just makes you look petty.

  8. Dale says:

    La Tech isa great fit for CUSA. Tech is within driving distance of 7 of the CUSA schools. I have attended games and they average nearly 20,000 per game. They are ranked ahead year in year out of almost half the membership of CUSA and outdraw UAB, Rice, SMU, etc. It is a very good school academically and is growing.

  9. eager eagle says:

    The poster might have been referring to paid attendance. Until just recently the La Tech home games were averaging $110,000 in ticket sales. Ticket sales to their home game with Ms State was only about $250,000. Divide the $110,000 by a ridiculuously low averagae of $11 per ticket would give you 10,000 paid attendance. Average ticket price of $25 for the Ms State game again give you 10,000 paid.

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