So, yeah this just happened, Hawai'i is going to to join the Mountain West in 2012 as a football only member and then have the rest of their sports will join the Big West. Either the Mountain West knows something about TCU leaving for the Big East, or Craig Thompson is putting the final nail in the coffin to the WAC.
The news of this came out of nowhere because Hawai'i was thinking of going independent in football and joining the Big West in other sports, but there was no word of Hawai'i joining the Mountain West.
School president M.R.C. Greenwood had this to say at the press conference.
Greenwood: WAC has not been informed of UH's decision to leave; "thought we'd tell our fans first"
A slap to the face of the league which Hawai'i has been a part of for the past 32 years. Hawai'i saw the writing on the wall. The WAC even with them was going to be comparable to the Sun Belt of the West. Hawai'i would easily be the best team in a bad league, so why hang around for that.
One thing to know this is not official and is currently a handshake agreement between Hawai'i and Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson.
Currently, below is what the WAC and Mountain West will look like in 2012 (barring any other moves)
New Mexico State
San Jose State
San Diego State
The WAC looks just awful, the best team is probably Louisiana Tech and who knows if they will be in the league for long or if TCU ends up going to the Big East. This could be a preemptive move by the Mountain West to keep the league at 10 teams if TCU does go, and it just would happen to kill off the WAC.
The first thing that would happen is that the WAC would lose their automatic basketball bid, because the bylaws state that a league must have at least six members who have been in the same league for five years and the new WAC would not have that. I don't think the NCAA would allow for any exception, but who knows because the WAC has been around a long time. That may deter either UTSA, Texas State or Denver from joining the league.
Denver maybe better served backing out that deal and perhaps stay in the Sun Belt or try to join the Mountain West as a basketball only member if the MWC adds another full fledge member. That would give the league 12 football and 12 basketball schools.
First off, I am not going into the merits or details of who the 12th team should be for football. My personal is choice is Houston (and I will be short) is because of the market size, recent success and a travel partner with TCU. I know that Houston is low on the totem poll in how popular, but they make sense. Houston and UTEP have been highly debated on this site and both have merits in joining the Mountain West. UTEP makes sense due to their relationship with their old-WAC mates in New Mexico, San Diego State, Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming.
Assuming the Mountain West going to get to 12 teams the select few that will be discussed will be Utah State, Houston and UTEP. These will be the top choices, but Tulsa and SMU will probably be discussed as well. The easiest and less messy of a move that would only effect a few schools would be for any C-USA West member join the Mountain West full time and then that would open up a spot for Louisiana Tech to join C-USA.
That would then leave the 2012 WAC with only: UTSA, Texas State, Idaho, San Jose State and Utah State. The Sun Belt will be up to 10 teams once South Alabama maks the jump to a full FBS member which would open up two spots for Sun Belt football. Texas State and UTSA would fit in perfectly as the 11th and 12th members and thus leave Idaho, Utah State and San Jose State out in the cold. I can not see Utah State going back to the FCS level, but I could see Idaho and San Jose State. Idaho because their stadium is very small and recently just moved up and for San Jose State because they are not a very good team.
There could be a few more independents with Idaho, San Jose State and Utah State aimlessly roaming the Western United State. Utah State already unsuccessfully tried independent before getting back into a league. Scheduling would be tough late in the year, but they would probably still play each other plus perhaps get Navy and Army on the schedule as well to give them at least five guaranteed games each year.
The WAC could try to save themselves by asking Montana again to join the WAC which would give them eight football schools, and possibly Montana State. Plus, they could try to bring in Cal Poly and UC Davis as football only members to get back to 10 teams. The problem is the transition period oh and that the WAC would be lucky to be on par with the Sun Belt.
The last item to look at is adding a 12th member for Mountain West hoops. There are two real option that exist out there and that is to see if Denver will reconsider their move to the WAC and they may have to, or the Mountain West could go get Seattle University who currently is an independent in college basketball. That would be an easy fit to get to 12 teams. Denver fits better geographically but is an option for the league if they want 12 basketball schools.
There are a myriad of options to be considered but the one outlined above is the least messy. The one key to the Mountain West rests on TCU. The move to add Hawai'i is not enough to keep them going to the Big East, if that happens. So, a lot of the Mountain West talk of adding other teams could be moot if TCU leaves. That would give the Mountain West a 10 team football league with a nine team basketball league, and nine is fine for basketball since that is currently what the Mountain West league consists of now.
In my opinion the WAC is dead, because unless the NCAA is willing to give them an exemption to keep their basketball auto bid the hoops league will dry up. I did not even get into the logistics about the left over WAC teams that may be out of a home for basketball. They could try to join the sprawling Great West league that has teams in Utah, New Jersey, Texas, the Dakotas and Illinois.
Eleven years after the WAC broke up the 16 team conference with eight teams meeting at the Denver airport to form the Mountain West, the league is coming to a slow and grizzly death by the teams that broke away just over a decade ago.