The New Western Athletic Conference: A Proposal

joshua williamsContributor IISeptember 1, 2010

10 Oct 1998: Quarterback Sean Davis #16 of the Montana Grizzlies in action during the game against the CSUN Matadors at the North Campus Stadium in Northridge, California. The Matadors defeated the Grizzlies 21-7.
Brandon Lopez/Getty Images

(this article was written before the BYU Independent/WCC decision, which still resulted in the WAC loosing out)

Utah State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, Idaho, and San Jose St. These are the remaining schools of the WAC that may find themselves homeless in the very near future, for according to NCAA rules, six does not a conference make. And with BYU contemplating on whether or not they should follow through and join the WAC in all sports except football, rumors of C-USA Louisiana Tech, and rumblings from Hawaii about a potential split, the WAC needs to add teams immediately if it is to survive.

This article will suggest seven schools that the WAC should consider inviting to build itself back up and have a championship game.  Also, I’ll assume that BYU stays with the Mountain West and Louisiana Tech leaves for C-USA.

1st nomination: Sacramento St.

The Sacramento St. Hornets of the Big Sky Conference.  They can replace the California presence lost from Fresno’s departure, create a rivalry with San Jose St., and a top twenty media market with the Sacramento-Modesto area according to the Nielson Ratings.  They also already have the 16 sports needed to qualify for a move upwards.  Sacramento would have to upgrade their facilities to attract better talent down the road (the stadium alone is 47 years old). Also, to get the Hornets the WAC may have to invite their chief rival…

2nd nomination: UC Davis

The UC Davis Aggies of the Big West Conference (Great West Conference in football).  Twenty-three sports, a $539 million endowment, and Sacramento’s chief rival in sports. They have a devoted and large fan base, one that would be willing to start a three-way rivalry between them, Sacramento, and San Jose.  Davis also is one of only three University of California schools that has a football team.  The other two being Pac-10 schools Cal and UCLA. They are also in Phase one of a new 30,000 seat stadium.

With a foothold in California and two teams, the WAC should move north and find support for an Idaho program that may be on an upswing. 

I considered Idaho State.  However, they would need to add three more sports and while their dome is historic (first dome stadium on a US college campus), its old and small (12,000 seats even smaller than Idaho’s) and they haven‘t shown any signs of updating.  So I decided to move one state over to Washington.

3rd nomination:  Eastern Washington

The Eastern Washington Eagles of the Big Sky.  Solid football program that has sent its share of NFL players. Loyal alumni.  Red turf?

The eagles would be an interesting grab if nothing else.  They have a well known ESPN personality in Colin Cowherd who has shown financial support in the program, as well as potential support from Spawn book creator/co-owner of the Edmonton Oilers Todd McFarlane.  They will have a red turf field that would draw attention much like the smurf turf of Boise.  However they will need to continue to build up, adding three more sports and increase their stadium capacity (something they have done in 2004 but they must do it again to be with the FBS ranks in seating).  They are almost in the same position as ISU, so why them and not the Bengals? Because EWU has a rival that the WAC really wants and inviting them might help push this other school into joining.  More on that school later.  First let’s go further west to a school in Oregon that, like Sacramento, is in a top 25 ranked Neilson Media market…

4th nomination:  Portland St.

The Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky.  As mentioned, the Vikings are in the top 25 media market of Portland, Oregon.  They have a recently renovated 23,000 seat stadium in PGE Park.  However, the main offering from them would be basketball, not football. Also, they would have to add two more sports before hopping up a level.  But the money is there for them to do it and an FBS program in a big city would definitely add to the recruiting which will beef up the football program (and improve an already successful basketball program).  The recent hire of former Nevada coordinator, Nigel Burton, would help ease the transition. 

Four down, three to go.  I thought real hard about Weber State.  It would give a natural rival to Utah State, and be more attractive for BYU.  Then I thought about a current FBS team from Texas that has been waiting for an invite from anybody for a long time…

5th nomination: North Texas

The North Texas Mean Green of the Sun Belt.  A historically powerful football program (24 conference titles), A new stadium that will be ready by 2011 (35,000 seats to replace the current 30,000 Fouts Field), good basketball program, opens the doors for Texas recruitment,  already a rival with New Mexico State.

Yes, the UNT has 24 football titles, but only 4 at the FBS level and none since 2004. However, they are a proud school that has put money into the program and have shown to be serious about their football. They have been pushing for an invite for years and whoever decides to do it first (WAC or C-USA) will get an almost instant yes.  And with less recruiting rivals in the WAC than C-USA, it would be a more attractive move.

6th nomination:  Montana State

The MSU bobcats of the Big Sky, the 4th from the conference.  A very strong academic school that would improve the conference’s overall standing. They also have a strong football program despite the limited talent base and have shown to be able to keep up and even beat FBS schools on occasion. While Bobcat Stadium is small (13,500) seating) it was renovated in 1998 with a redesign to the south end  to accommodate future expansion.  MSU would also be joining its other Big Sky rivals, not having to worry about promoting too many new rivalries with its move up. But the main reason to invite them would be to grab the other half of the Brawl of the Wild game…

7th nomination: Montana

The Griz. The perenial power of the Big Sky and of the FCS.  The school so many critics and fans think could make the move to FBS but have always refused to do it.  But now they would have no choice.  Four of their conference foes, including two of their biggest rivals in EWU and MSU, will be gone.  The Big Sky will be decimated.  And they would have just as good a chance as any to win the new WAC.  So what do they bring to the table?  A nationally known program who despite the talent base wins consistently.  A potential giant killer that could develop the way Boise St. had developed.  A face for the conference (sorry Hawaii). 

The new WAC:  Montana, Montana State, North Texas, Eastern Washington, Portland State, UC Davis, Sacramento State, Hawaii, Idaho, San Jose State, New Mexico State, and Utah State.

With twelve teams, there can now be a two division split and  a championship game. 

WAC North
Montana State
Eastern Washington
Portland State
Utah State

WAC South
North Texas
UC Davis
Sacramento State
San Jose State
New Mexico State

Championship Game Location: Aloha Stadium

Now, obviously, this puts the WAC down below the MAC and closer to the Sun Belt as far as conference pecking order goes, but that can be built upon.  Besides, at this point, it isn’t about getting close to AQ status anymore, its about survival. Even if it means the death of a FCS conference


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