According to a recent sporting news column, the WAC is again looking at expansion to ten.
It would be wise for the WAC to center its focus on finding Louisiana Tech a travel partner. Louisiana Tech is one of the schools hit hardest by rising gas prices in the conference.
A travel partner is a university located close to another university. Having a travel partner in a conference cuts the amount of travel by allowing other schools, such as Hawaii, to schedule both schools in one round trip.
Tech’s nearest conference mate, New Mexico State, is nearly a thousand miles away. Fortunately, there are several schools from the State of Texas that could assist as a travel partner for the bulldogs.
Since 1992, 1/5 of NFL players drafted from the WAC have come from Texas, a state where the WAC is no longer represented.
First, we’ll run by the schools that would play FBS football in the conference, and then we’ll look at possible solutions for sports other than football.
Schools that field or plan on fielding FBS level football:
Lamar has a proud football history in FBS. The school is small-to-mid sized [10,000] and located close to Houston on the Louisiana-Texas Border.
Lamar fielded a Division I football team up until 1989, when football was dropped altogether due to rising costs and slacking attendance.
Lamar will play in Cardinal Stadium, which is going through 18 million worth of renovations and expansion planned to reach completion by 2010. Pre-expansion, Cardinal Stadium holds 17,500.
Lamar is located in a mid-sized metropolitan statistical area in East Texas. While it lacks the punch of a town like Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas-Fort Worth, The Beaumont Metropolitan Area brings in around 250k, more than enough support for an FBS football team.
North Texas is one of the Texas’ largest universities. UNT has a huge enrollment at 35k, and is quickly developing an Alumni base in the huge Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area.
UNT is the area’s dominant public school. Concern has been raised about the universities ability to draw in a market containing Texas Christian, SMU, Texas A&M and Texas.
The university has a new stadium in the plans, which will hold around 35,000. The Mean Greens current football home, Fouts Field, holds 30,000.
UNT has been offered WAC membership before and declined. UNT remains an unlikely option since the university has already turned down the geographically challenged WAC to stay in the Texas-oriented Sun Belt.
Texas at San Antonio:
UT San Antonio is the seventh-largest university in Texas, with a student body around 29,000. It is the largest public university within the San Antonio metropolitan area.
The San Antonio metropolitan area is one of Texas’ largest at nearly two million inhabitants.
UT San Antonio is looking to planning on starting football at the Bowl Subdivision level. The University will play at the Alamodome, which seats 65,000, with play scheduled to start around 2010 or 2011.
UT San Antonio would be a wise choice due to the large alumni base, large population base and great stadium.
UT-San Antonio is close to being classified as a doctoral/research university by the Carnegie foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Texas State-San Marcos:
Texas State is a large school (28,000) with big plans to change subdivisions within the next five years.
San Marcos is a small town smack dab between Austin and San Antonio. If Texas State gained some notoriety, they could possibly pull fans from both markets.
The school would need to make considerable upgrades to Bobcat Stadium before moving to 1-A. As of this writing, Bobcat Stadium seats only 15,000.
Texas State has ranked in the top tier of western master’s universities for the third consecutive year in the USN&W report study.
University of Texas at Arlington:
University of Texas at Arlington is a large (25k) member of the Texas University System smack dab in the middle of the Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington Metropolitan area.
The university sponsored football until the 1985 season, when a drop in fan support and financial losses of over a million dollars caused the school to shut down the football program.
UT-Arlington would struggle to find support in the DFW metroplex with UNT, Texas Christian, SMU, Texas and Texas A&M drawing from it.
For a university that doesn’t sponsor football, UTA would be a solid addition to the WAC due to its large size and placement within the Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington metropolitan area.
Texas-Arlington is also a highly regarded academic institution. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching rated it as a Doctoral-Research- High Research Activity University.
Since 1998, UT-Arlington has won the Southland’s commissioners cup three times, more than any other southland university during this time period.
While Denver is not close to Ruston, Louisiana, they are located in a major metropolitan area and airport hub. A team with these qualifications could help cut down on travel without regards to its location.
Denver profiles similarly to the University of Saint Louis: A small, urban private with great academics. It is a Doctoral-Research Universities and was rated highly during the USN&W study (85th).
The Denver metropolitan area rakes in 2.5 million. While DU will always lose viewers to the University of Colorado and the Denver Broncos, one day DU could have more exposure in the Denver market than Colorado State or Wyoming.
The best addition for the WAC at this point is probably either UT-San Antonio (with football) or UT-Arlington (without football).
However, there are several universities in Texas and Louisiana that warrant the WAC's interest. All of these universities listed here could become future additions to the Sun Belt, C-USA or WAC.