WAC Commissioner Karl Benson is a persistent guy, but if anyone were in his position we all would be doing the same to save his job. The WAC is currently sitting at seven football schools for the 2012 season and while the league is not recognized per the NCAA rules that a conference must have eight teams the individual members are eligible for bowl games and the BCS.
So, really nothing has changed for football besides the amount of teams in the league. However, the WAC was saved from complete disaster when the NCAA ruled to scrap the core membership requirement which means a league can have seven members for basketball and six in other sports and that a league can still obtain their NCAA basketball automatic berth. The prior rule stated that six teams had to be part of the same league for five years to retain their bid with eight teams oaverall, but this rule change saved the WAC from the guillotine, for now.Benson is looking to reach out to a handful of more teams to join the league as full members for all sports and also some to come in as non-football members. A decision is expected to come April 1 and Benson said recently that there are schools that are ready to accept invites, my money is on a pair of schools that come from the same FCS conference.
All of these announcements took place over a four-hour meeting with all of the eight future WAC athletic directors. Benson's main goal is to get to at least 10 and possibly 12 members, but he did not specify if he meant overall members or just football playing members. Three schools were mentioned specifically were Seattle, Utah Valley State University and California State-Bakersfield.
Utah Valley would be a good fit since they are a reasonable two or three hour drive to Utah State, Seattle would probably do whatever it takes to get into a league since they are a rare division one basketball independent and are probably never going to get into the WCC and California-State Bakersfield is trying to get into the Big West as they are making the jump from division III to division I which was completed this year. This brings us to the set of football schools that Benson is trying to lure to the sinking ship known as the WAC. Benson is planning on inviting a new set of teams plus a few that spurned Benson before:
Multiple sources, one of which attended Friday's meeting, told the Express-News recently the list of football candidates includes, but is not necessarily limited to, Louisiana-Lafayette, Lamar, Sam Houston State, California-Davis, Portland State and Cal Poly.
The sources also said the WAC could make fresh runs at Montana and North Texas, both of which turned down invitations last November. If Montana were to be approached again, one of the sources said, Montana State would likely be considered as well.
I don't really see how the WAC has made itself any more attractive to North Texas since their last overture to the Mean Green unless perhaps the WAC adds more schools in their area with a combination of Louisiana-Monroe, Sam Houston State or Lamar. Adding those schools in addition to FBS newbies University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas State really make the WAC at worse on par with the Sun Belt, and most likely a step down in competition. Unless North Texas wants to be in an easier league would they consider going.
As for Montana, I guess adding Montana State makes the move a little better with their rival coming along as Montana is the only team worth adding that could make the transition to becoming a solid FBS team. Adding Sam Houston State is just a grab to bring in a team in the Texas area to help with travel when teams come to the state to play UTSA and Texas State and adding a third team in Texas could help persuade to keep Louisiana Tech in the WAC and not make the move to C-USA if the Mountain West either kills off the WAC or takes UTEP which would open up a space for Louisiana Tech.
Again, it seems that Benson is grasping at straws to add teams. He knows -- or should know -- that he will be losing money through reduced bowl games as they already lost the Hawai'i bowl and may lose out on the Humanitarian Bowl once that contract runs out. Plus, they have less teams to fill out their current ESPN deal and will earn a drastically reduced rate with the next deal with it being on ESPN, Fox Sports or whoever wants to pay to broadcast their games.
Even with this optimistic news Karl Benson knows the WAC is still at the mercy of what the Mountain West does:
"Unfortunately, we're kind of held at bay until the Mountain West makes their decision," Benson said. "Obviously there are WAC schools that might be on the list. It's something we have to recognize as a possibility. We are certainly hoping there isn't any further deletion."
The Mountain West is having a meeting Jan. 24 to decide what they are doing on the expansion front and then we will know what the Mountain West does and if they can once and for all kill off the WAC.
For another good take on this notsellingjeans wrote a nice fan shot on the same topic.