What’s next for UH athletics?

August 25, 2010, 6:47 AM HST · Updated August 25, 6:47 AM
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By Fred Guzman

The Western Athletic Conference is on the verge of collapse following the recent defections of Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference. And there’s a strong likelihood that Utah State will end up there, as well.

That has forced University of Hawaii administrators to seriously consider and pursue the option of becoming an independent in football and joining another conference for its 18 other athletic programs. Under this scenario, UH could join forces with either the Big West or the West Coast Conference.

The Big West is comprised of nine schools, all based in California, and all but one of them, Pacific, are public institutions. Its other members are Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara.

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Rainbow Wahine teams played in the Big West and its predecessor, the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, until joining the WAC in 1996. The UH men’s volleyball team currently competes with several of those schools under the banner of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

The WCC is made up of eight smaller church-affiliated schools. It’s members included Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara.

Based on demographics and history, the most likely destination for UH would seem to be the Big West.

Meantime, WAC commissioner Karl Benson continues to act as if he actually has some leverage instead of being the skipper of a sinking ship.

Benson is publicly insisting that departing members Fresno State and Nevada are each accountable for a $5 million early exit fee. And he’s also demanding that the two schools must play in the WAC for another two seasons. These are, of course, empty threats. Fresno State and Nevada have both made it clear that they intend to leave the WAC, along with Boise State, following this academic year.

If Utah State also leaves for the Mountain West, as is widely rumored, and Hawaii opts for independence in football and joins another league for other sports, Karl Benson’s kingdom will have been reduced to nearly nothing. Only four schools would remain under the WAC banner – Idaho, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.

Benson is merely angling for some sort of negotiated settlement while insisting that, at this point, “there have been no discussions” about an early departure by the defecting schools. Hello, Karl Benson. No discussions are needed. Actions, in this case, clearly speak louder than words.

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