No conference has been hit harder in realignment than the Western Athletic Conference. Yes the Big East has seen nine members (ten if you count TCU) exit but at least we know that league will be around next year. The same couldn’t be said for the WAC, which ended up on life support (and that may be kind) as a result of the moves.
But commissioner Jeff Hurd and the programs still in the conference aren’t giving up on the WAC, and on Wednesday night the conference issued an invitation to UT-Pan American to join the conference.
UT-Pan America is currently a member of the Great West, which would be down to just two full members in 2013 if UTPA were to make the move to the WAC. Houston Baptist (Southland) and Utah Valley (WAC) are both leading the Great West after this season, leaving UTPA, Chicago State and NJIT.
If UTPA, which has to make a presentation to the UT system board of regents, were to receive the approval needed to act on the conference’s invitation the Great West would be down to just Chicago State and NJIT as full members.
“It’s been a while,” UTPA athletic director Chris King said of UTPA being in an AQ league. “The one thing that athletics was sorely lacking was conference affiliation.”
The Broncs were kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference in 1998 after being plagued by NCAA infractions. From then until 2008, they were independent. Since that point, they’ve been a member of the Great West Conference, which is more of a scheduling alliance than anything and does not have an AQ.
Eight members are slated to leave the WAC by 2014, and that number could jump to nine if the recent reports that New Mexico State could at some point rejoin the Sun Belt come to fruition.
Cal State Bakersfield enters the conference next year along with Utah Valley, and the league has also picked up a commitment from provisional Division I member Grand Canyon University. With these three joining Seattle, Idaho and New Mexico State in 2013 the conference would be up to seven members if UTPA were to join.
Will all of this movement allow the WAC to remain in existence? Commissioner Hurd and the presidents he represents need to be creative if they’re going to pull this off.