Hawaii football bound for Mountain West

November 18, 2010, 8:46 PM HST · Updated November 18, 8:46 PM
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By Fred Guzman

Goodbye, WAC. Hello, Mountain West.

That’s the bottom line from a Thursday night press conference during which it was announced that the UH football team has received and accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West.

Although some formalities have to be ironed out, it is a virtually foregone conclusion that Hawaii will be departing the WAC effective the 2012 football season.

There’s also widespread speculation that all other UH sports teams will likely end up in the Big West Conference, although university officials declined to address that issue during the press gathering at Bachman Hall on the Manoa campus.

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The WAC, of which Hawaii has been a member since 1979, has been steadily eroding. Boise State is leaving the conference this summer. Fresno State and Nevada previously announced they were also leaving for the Mountain West the following year, with UH now set to join the mass exodus.

Ironically, the Mountain West was created a dozen years ago by eight schools that bolted from the then 16-team WAC, with Hawaii among those left behind.

Hawaii’s agreement in principle to leave the WAC for the Mountain West follows a recent trend that has altered the landscape of college sports. In fact, two current Mountain West members – Brigham Young and Utah – will be leaving this summer. BYU is becoming independent in football while Utah is bound for the re-named Pac-12.

The latest defectors from the WAC will join Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming in the Mountain West.

That would produce an 11-team conference, prompting speculation of an invitation to Utah State that would result in a 12-team league. The NCAA requires a dozen teams to create a pair of six-team divisions and allow for the playing of a conference championship game.

The invitation was extended by the Mountain West in a phone call earlier in the day by commissioner Craig Thompson. The announcement followed university President MRC Greenwood’s return from Maui, where the UH Board of Regents met and was informed of the situation.

As for Hawaii’s other teams, athletic director Jim Donovan noted that the Big West – currently comprised of nine California state universities and colleges – recently dropped its moratorium on expansion and set a deadline of Dec. 1 for other schools to apply for membership.

Hawaii intends to apply, which would provide a new home for such significant programs as women’s volleyball, baseball, softball and women’s soccer.

The WAC announced last week it would add Texas-San Antonio, Texas State, and Denver, all currently Division-I-AA programs. Denver doesn’t field a football team.

Donovan noted these schools send the WAC farther into the middle of the country geographically, which would increase the school’s travel expenses.

Other WAC members are San Jose State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech and Utah State.

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