3 Plans to Save the Western Athletic Conference

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3 Plans to Save the Western Athletic Conference
Three Aggressive plans to save the WAC.

The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA presidents are well into the planning stages of a merger. They met together in Dallas recently to hash out the plan.

East Carolina's chancellor Steve Ballard said after the meeting that the plan calls for expansion to as many as 20 schools by the summer and possible 24-30 by as late as 2016. (It should be noted that 30 teams would not lend itself to divisional play while 24 would.)

If the merger occurs, the Western Athletic Conference may lose one or two teams to the new conference this year and possibly as many as four by 2016.

If the merger does not occur, the WAC, with very little money coming in from ESPN, could lose two schools to the MWC and up to four schools to Conference USA in what would likely be a condensed time frame.

Additionally there is another potential predator out there. The WAC recently refused to extend the contract of longtime commissioner Karl Benson.  Benson rebuilt the WAC from a five-team league into today's 11-team conference, but that was apparently not good enough to earn him an extension.

Benson now works for the rival Sun Belt Conference.  He has mentioned that he sees the Sun Belt footprint as stretching from Texas to Florida. This is relevant because the Sun Belt's only Texas school is the University of North Texas, which is also a strong candidate for the new conference's initial round of expansion.

Benson has admitted that it could make sense to try to peel away some WAC schools.  This and some of Benson's other public comments, including being proactive in his additions rather than waiting for the raid to occur and rebuilding, have fueled speculation that Benson may try to convince his new bosses to offer spots to a few WAC members.

The WAC leadership announced when Benson left that they would form a committee in order to find a new commissioner in a few weeks. But for now the conference is floating rudderless in shark-infested waters.

There are a lot of ideas out there about how to save the WAC.  Most of the ones with a reasonable chance of succeeding suggest adding one school. But that may not be enough to save the conference from a series of raids. 

One reasonable idea I read the other day was to poach Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton.  It would essentially be both a push and pull strategy.  Poaching Fullerton could well destabilize the Big Sky.  With him in charge of the WAC, he could try to use his relationships with Big Sky schools to coax a couple into joining the WAC.

I think a larger action is required.  I think any plan has to have clear value to all parties to be worth discussing.  Here are three aggressive but workable plans to steer the direction of the conference into less choppy waters.

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