You busted your ass putting together the very rare "up pecking order" conference raid. You were days away from stealing BYU until once again the members you work for sold you out.
Asking for a 6 month moratorium on any talk of leaving is not a huge request from someone who was once again pantsed publicly by your member schools.
If it takes a few moments of guilt tripping with the leadership at some schools, absolutely do it, but logic sells better.
There is a pathway forward that will create the potential of leapfrogging the MWC within 10 years, but it requires all six schools to commit.
If one more school leaves, the WAC would fall below having 6 core DI members who have played together for 5 years and would likely lose their automatic basketball tourney bid.
(In most NCAA sports, the rule for post season eligibility for a conference is two years at the minimum number of members; In basketball it is five years with six core division I members, joined by a seventh core DI member. This rule governing conference basketball post-season automatic qualifier status is called the "5/6/7 rule.")
Without that bid, they would have a very hard time luring teams from the conferences that do have NCAA tournament bids (every other DI conference but the Great West). The caliber of team the WAC could land would drop dramatically.
It would very likely kill the WAC. SJSU, Idaho, and NMSU would likely drop to FCS or drop football entirely, putting a lot of those school's athletic departments' employees out of work, costing a lot of kids a free education, and hurting those universities' ability to promote their institutions.
If they keep the WAC 6 together and add another DI team (like BYU for example) as seventh member (satisfying the "joined by a seventh core DI member" part of the 5/6/7 rule), they will retain their basketball tournament slot.
The Unloved Trio
SJSU, Idaho, and NMSU have no better options. They should be advocating this moratorium on defection talk to the three potential flight risks.
Hawaii is looking hard at their fallback position of being a football Independent, but how reasonable is that really?
UH would have to play big money body bag games at school like USC, UT, Washington, and others to earn the payouts to allow them to bribe schools to fly in and play them in one of the best home-field advantages in the nation.
Would Hawaii ever be able break even? Would ESPN money allow UH to bring in Pac-10 schools? Would BYU play UH if BYU didn't get a non-football home as part of the deal?
Would peer schools like Fresno State even return Hawaii's calls? Could teams like San Jose State charge exorbitant fees to play UH in Hawaii?
Independence could work for UH, or it could be the final nail in the coffin for UH football. If UH leaves and the WAC dies, UH football will have no escape plan if their independence play fails.
Before taking that final option, why not take a strong pro-WAC stance with their local media and give Benson six months?
The curious case of Utah State.
It seems that USU was targeted to be the biggest pawn in this big realignment mudslide.
Benson and Utah State President Stan Albrecht apparently masterminded and brokered the BYU deal.
BYU appears to want to do USU a favor. It seems pretty likely that BYU is looking for a win-win situation for USU as BYU transitions to Independence and then a likely future Big 12 membership. It looks like they were willing to work with the WAC in part to help USU (apparently some BYU bigwigs have USU ties).
Even with a gutted WAC, it appears BYU is still willing to talk about WAC membership.
The MWC, on the other hand, appears to have attempted to use USU to kill WAC solidarity, not knowing the Aggies' level of involvement in the BYU raid.
It appears the MWC leadership assumed that if they offered percieved "small time" WAC member Utah State a slot, the Aggies would likely wet themselves in their hurry to rush to accept that very unlikely membership offer from the MWC.
The thought was USU's departure would have destroyed WAC solidarity, opening the door to a raid of Nevada and cash poor Fresno State, allowing both to leave without issue.
It does suggest the MWC was not only aware of the loyalty deals, they may actually have identified that the contracts were void after a team left.
When Utah State refused, Fresno State and Nevada determined they felt comfortable with their chances of evading the penalties in the loyalty agreements and bolted anyway. This may have been a surprising turn of events for the MWC.
Afterall, Utah State has been engaged in "aggressive negotiations" with the MWC to get another invitation for almost a week now. Those talks have been fruitless.
That seemed very odd considering the MWC was prepared to let them in last week, but makes a ton of sense if the Presidents of the MWC schools were already aware of Albrecht's emails and general attitude towards the MWC in general and specifically his attitude to the unloyal former WAC members.
It seems like the MWC may not see any value to adding Utah State now and frankly there may not be the support among the member schools in the MWC for adding USU at this point.
The release of these emails may have done a lot to save the WAC by decreasing the odds of a MWC raid of Utah State.
Regardless, Benson and the WAC schools need to strongly encourage Utah State to stop pursuing MWC membership and re-recruit Utah State before the MWC changes their mind and they make another offer to Utah State.
It may be tough to sell Utah State; It may not. The Aggies can't be enjoying the current begging and apologizing they are having to do.
USU proved they are at their core loyal conference members whose word means something and who would actively get their hands dirty and fight to make the conference better. They need to be retained.
Their WAC cohorts should coax the Aggies into six months of no talks with the MWC.
It is very likely there is better future revenue in staying in the WAC than joining the MWC anyway. The numbers may need to be rolled out for them.
It might be smart to send word through "unofficial channels" from BYU that Utah State needs to stay in the WAC if they want to be in the same conference as BYU.
Keeping USU may very well be a key to having a shot at landing BYU.
La Tech should consider that with Charlotte adding football and UNT building a new stadium, they may again be the odd man out in CUSA.
And as BYU may join the WAC anyway, there is a good chance TCU might return to CUSA dropping La Tech even further down in CUSA's preferred realignment pecking order.
Joining the Sun Belt means becoming a peer to UL-Monroe. That is a very unattractive option for La Tech.
Like UH, it is pretty clear to most people not near the university that the best play for this school is keeping the WAC alive and pushing for dramatic expansion.
The post-MWC WAC has always considered itself a Pacific conference that tolerates central schools. For that reason, La Tech was allowed to be exempt from the last loyalty agreement.
It would make sense to write the next one to at least keep Tech basketball a bit longer if their CUSA bid comes in to allow the WAC to not lose it's bid to the NCAA tourney.
It is not too much to ask.
La Tech should be sold on a promise that the WAC will not allow them to bleed travel dollars anymore. Come hell or high water there will be a southern WAC division for La Tech.
What is needed
The WAC needs some confidentiality agreements with teeth. They don't need leaks getting back to the MWC.
They need Hawaii to actively curb all the independence talk in their local media and Utah State to vocally commit to the WAC in their local media.
If the WAC can get all six teams on board for a moratorium on any talk of leaving and issuing strong vocal commitments to Benson and the WAC to their media over the next six months, this conference will have not only a heartbeat, but a strong one at that.