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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Future of the WAC

Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman reported today that the WAC would be adding Seattle University as another non-football playing member. To set the record straight, I believe that Karl Benson is a phenomenal commissioner. I think that he has done a great job for the WAC and shown his fighting spirit. With that said, the WAC is in big trouble, but its not really Benson's fault.

While the WAC was able secure a bowl tie-in with the H-Bowl for another year, this is really not anything to be too proud of. Yes, the H-Bowl is fun for those of us in Boise, but it isn't really a destination bowl. The recent H-Bowl games have been very competitive and exciting games, but there isn't any guarantee that'll continue. Point is, H-Bowl ain't gonna save the WAC.

With so few football playing schools in the WAC (post-2012) you have to start wonder about the viability of the conference from a football perspective. I have no doubt that it could continue to operate and have a degree of success as football-less conference, especially given the strength of Utah State and others in men's basketball. However, the role of the football-less western-US conference is being pretty well occupied by the Big West and West Coast Conferences.

Add to this the fact that LA Tech will continue to be even more pressured to move to a more regionally appropriate conference with the economic realities facing state budgets, including in Louisiana. The Sun Belt or Conference USA would be a much better fit and I don't think that is debatable.

I don't think it is unreasonable to foresee a future where the MWC poaches the last couple above average programs from WAC (namely USU and maybe San Jose State) and the reality starts to set in even more deeply. If that happens, it probably isn't unreasonable to see the remaining western schools (assuming that LA Tech has bailed, which they will) to merge with the Big West and form a super basketball conference.

Where does that leave the remaining football playing schools? Well, the U of I will be in a tough spot. The experiment in the Sun Belt a few years ago was a disaster and not going to be repeated. Vandal alums are very reluctant to return to the Big Sky, despite the fact it may be the best post-WAC alternative. NMSU and the Texas schools will likely find a new home someplace more regionally appropriate as well.

This is all speculation, but the fact is that the WAC, as it will be comprised in 2012, won't be viable or financially solvent for very long. Unless something else happens (like the MWC getting raided by a new PAC-16), there isn't much likelihood that the future will be as bright as the once bright past of the WAC.

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