Latest defections leave WAC in disarray
By Fred Guzman
Within just a few hours yesterday, the Western Athletic Conference — and, by extension, the University of Hawaii — went from a potential winner to a likely loser in the game of musical chairs that has become the norm in college sports.
With in-state neighbor Utah bolting for the soon-to-be-renamed Pac-12, Brigham Young decided to take its football program to independent status while placing the rest of its athletic teams back in the WAC.
A formal announcement by BYU regarding its intention to leave the Mountain West Conference is scheduled for today. BYU would join Army, Navy and Notre Dame as the only independents in Division I-A.
For a brief moment, it appeared as if the WAC had regained a bit of ground following the departure of its marquee football program, Boise State, to the Mountain West. But the satisfaction was short-lived as the Mountain West extended formal invitations that were quickly accepted by current WAC members Fresno State and Nevada.
With the WAC facing the prospect of being reduced to just six teams – two under the NCAA’s requirement for a conference — reports then surfaced that BYU might instead forge a partnership with the West Coast Conference or, possibly, remain in the Mountain West.
If that happens, UH will be stuck in conference that will have to raid the Division-I-AA Big Sky Conference for teams such as Montana, Weber State, Sacramento State and/or Eastern Michigan just to stay alive.
MORE BYU: BYU had been a part of the WAC for more than 40 years before it bolted to the Mountain West as a charter member in 1999, along with Utah and six other schools, leaving behind Hawaii.
BYU is leaving the Mountain West because of relatively paltry television revenues – about $1.5 million annually per school — which are bound to shrink even more when Utah leaves next year.
While BYU isn’t expecting to generate the $15 million annually that Notre Dame receives as a restult of its unique deal with NBC, the Cougars feel they can do much better than they’ve done as a member of the Mountain West, which has taken its own recent steps to sweeten the financial pot by meeting with CBS and Comcast officials.
The MWC also helped its bargaining position with BYU. The Cougars have not confirmed anything and may need another look before making anything official. At this rate, there might not be much of a WAC left to join.
And again left on the outside looking in is Hawaii. UH was kept in the dark when eight teams from the WAC bolted to form the Mountain West. And now it was again caught by surprise when first Boise State and then Fresno State and Nevada defected. As a result, Hawaii’s cash-strapped athletic program has again been left behind.