Posted by Adam Jacobi
Last week, we mentioned that the WAC was entertaining two potential new members in UT-San Antonio and Texas State as part of the conference's quest to, well, save itself. The WAC has only six members lined up for the 2011 season, and while the NCAA will recognize the WAC and allow its members postseason bids if a group of at least five schools have been in the same conference for the five prior years is there, six just won't cut it when it comes to actually making schedules.
At any rate, we weren't terribly impressed by UTSA or TSU, but were intrigued by commissioner Karl Benson's statement that there were three other schools that would be presenting to the WAC during their meeting in Dallas this week. It was intriguing mainly because, well, who would they be? All of the FBS schools in the WAC's central region are in the Mountain West or Pac-10, and both of those conferences were acquiring schools during the latest conference realignments, not losing them. Now we know the rest of them, and... well, it's a work in progress:
The league is studying the possibility of adding the University of Texas-San Antonio, Texas State University, the University of Denver, Seattle University and the University of Montana in the wake of losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference.
All five schools will remain on the WAC radar after a meeting of the league’s membership committee in Dallas earlier this week, though Benson left open the possibility that other prospective members “could come back into play” if there’s another round of conference realignment.
Interestingly enough, the school with the best football program of the bunch (which isn't saying much, since three don't even have programs) is Montana, and they didn't put together a formal presentation for the meetings because they were still waiting on the results of a study into whether it's worth their time to move from FCS to FBS designation. Instinctively, the answer to that question is yes; Grizzlies fans routinely pack Washington-Grizzly Stadium at a capacity of a little over 25,000, so even if the WAC or NCAA want capacity expanded, there'll probably be butts in the new seats. But we'll see what the study says.
Past that, the Universities of Denver and Seattle wouldn't even bother fielding football teams (wise), so while they could very well be smart additions for every other sport, they're not going to help fill out a conference schedule when the time comes. That's why, barring the re-entry of new schools into this discussion, we think UTSA and Texas State will end up joining the conference: at the end of the day, you need guys on the gridiron.
And no, those aren't particularly impressive candidates, but you know what? If anyone's acutely aware of how non-AQ the WAC is, it's the WAC, and at the very least they're not wasting anybody's time by publicly courting Oklahoma State or the like. The WAC is what it is, and Benson's just embracing it these days.