July 26, 2003
WAC to expand?

The Western Athletic Conference, home of your 2003 National Champion Rice Owls Baseball Team, is thinking about expanding to 12 teams.

Speaking at the WAC preseason football media gathering, [WAC Commissioner Karl] Benson said the league's athletic directors expressed interest during a meeting last fall of adding two teams and splitting into eastern and western divisions.

The WAC has 10 teams, only four of which are in the Central Time Zone -- Rice, SMU, Tulsa and Louisiana Tech. Adding two more schools from the Central Time Zone would allow the conference to have two six-team divisions and reduce travel.

Boise State, Hawaii, Fresno State, San Jose State, Nevada and Texas-El Paso would be in the west, with Rice, Louisiana Tech, SMU, Tulsa and two other schools in the east.

Benson said the conference toyed with the idea of splitting into divisions in 2000 but shelved the idea until last fall. Now that the dominoes have been put in motion for nationwide realignment with Virginia Tech and Miami leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, Benson believes the WAC needs to be proactive.

"From a timing standpoint, everything rests in the Big East's hands, and we're waiting for the Big East to decide what their structure is going to be," he said. "We are prepared that if the Big East goes in the direction they're headed and extends invitations to some Conference USA schools, that we'll be prepared to react in a way to put us in a positive position."

Benson wouldn't identify which schools the WAC would target, but Houston -- which currently competes in C-USA -- is believed to be on the list. TCU, which left the WAC for C-USA following the 2000 season, and Tulane are options.

"We have identified some particular schools we thought could be a good fit," he said. "The six-team Central Time Zone division is still a top priority for us, but I've been able to say as the dominoes fall that there may be schools available to the WAC that weren't available to us in 2000 when we started to go down the division route."

Interesting. It's not quite the Yoda Plan, which calls for expansion to 14 teams and leaves UTEP in the Eastern division, but I like the fact that the conference is at least being proactive about its future. After all the years we've had to hear about various schools flirting with with Mountain West Conference, it would be nice to try and get some actual stability. I applaud them for that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 26, 2003 to Other sports | TrackBack

My question is, when is Texas State University (nee Southwest Texas State) going to become a part of the Big XII?

With a record attendance of 33,000 this year, it is almost as big as Texas Tech.

Posted by: JimTXDem on July 26, 2003 10:46 PM

I can tell you that Hawai'i would probably be in favor of the divisional idea, if economics was the only factor. Its athletic department spends a small fortune each year on travel for its own teams; I'm not sure, but there used to be a requirement that it had to kick in some cash to help defray travel expenses for Mainland teams coming out here to play.

Posted by: Linkmeister on July 28, 2003 2:39 AM