On Wednesday, March 28, WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich visited Stockton, California, to welcome the University of the Pacific as the league’s newest and one time original founding member.
In 1952, Pacific along with San Jose State, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s College founded what would become known as the West Coast Athletic Conference.
Since 1969 when the Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA) was formed to better serve Cal-State system programs with Division One football, the United Methodist-sponsored school has competed in that alignment.
During the early-mid 1990s, Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton decided to drop their football programs, and ultimately Pacific made the same choice after the 1995 season.
Pacific was the lone private university in the Big West, and for some time many have thought a return to the WCC just might be in its best interests. This speculation ramped up considerably after BYU was invited to join the league in 2010 in order to compete as a football independent and leave the MWC.
Precursor to additional movements?
While many have thought this would further solidify the travel options of the WCC by adding an even number of schools, there are those who continue to speculate that BYU is more of a long term fit for the Big 12.
This move might be preemptive to clearing the way for BYU to join to the Big 12 by having another institution lined up to keep the WCC within its media partner contractual obligations.
If BYU is invited to the Big 12, what additional institution could be invited to the WCC?
When it became evident last September that the Big 12 was highly interested in inviting BYU as a replacement for SEC-bound Texas A&M, the biggest political issue the Cougars faced was the concerns of an LDS Church governing board.
The board was was very concerned about the void that BYU would create by leaving the league of religiously-sponsored, smaller liberal arts institutions.
There is also a relationship between BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe and Pacific AD Ted Leland, since it was Leland who was the Stanford AD when Holmoe broke into the college coaching ranks in 1992. Stanford hired Holmoe as its defensive secondary coach after two years as a graduate assistant under LaVell Edwards.
Additional WCC Members?
There is still speculation that eventually the WCC will bring back Seattle University or possibly the University of Denver. Seattle was a WCC member until 1979 when they decided to scale back intercollegiate athletics and move down to NAIA. They went back to the NCAA nearly two decades later, but only at the division two level.
Seattle along with Denver and Texas-Arlington have committed to help rebuild the WAC, but the continued realignment and possible MWC, C-USA and Sun-Belt movements could lead to the disillusion of that league.
Recently, long-time commissioner Karl Benson bolted for the Sun Belt Conference when league presidents refused to extend his contract for at least four more years.
The Big 12's Future
The future of the Big 12 is solid now that media partner ESPN has agreed to a more lucrative tier one level rights that will be synced with tier two level media rights held by FOX.
Many speculate the league directors will exercise their expansion option in his deal by extending invitations to both Louisville and BYU upon the naming of a new permanent commissioner to replace Chuck Neinas, who was brought in on an interim basis to take over from the fired Dan Beebe after the second great succession crises last fall.
While it is a wait-and-see with respect to all of this, the changes to the BCS format after 2014 will in all likelihood make returning to at least 12 teams more ideal for the league.
But it will only happen if they can get Louisville and BYU to accept. Due to the lack of interest in a championship football game until after the new BCS format materializes, it remains to be seen if the league moves towards hosting that event until later in the decade.
For Cougar fans, the decision is still up in the air in terms of future schedules due to possible BCS league inclusion, but the movements this week clearly indicate this league realignment period that started two years ago isn’t over yet, and BYU is still a major ace in the deck to be played.