Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nevada, Fresno State Moving To Mountain West

More conferences are shifting with Nevada and Fresno State saying that they will leave the WAC for the Mountain West. They are joining Boise State, the other WAC team to already defect to the Mountain West over the past few months. They will replace Utah and BYU, with Utah leaving for the Pac-10 and BYU most likely heading to a situation where they will be a football independent and will play their other sports in the WAC.

All of this movement from the WAC to the Mountain West has to be bringing vivid flashbacks for those that remember the history of those two conferences. The WAC formed in 1962 and rapidly grew to the point that by the mid-1990s it was a super-conference with 16 teams. It had teams that traversed the country, from Hawaii to TCU. But the happy times were short. While travel costs were a concern, the real issue that blew up the conference was quality control, with too many poor teams that were stuck at the basement each year and contributed nothing.

The turbulence led to eight schools defecting and forming the Mountain West Conference. TCU left for Conference USA, and a few years later joined up with the others in the Mountain West. Rice, SMU and TCU also left for Conference USA.

So with the Mountain West continuing to eat up WAC teams, is it risking a return of the old WAC? I don't think so. The conference will likely have ten teams, and there won't be any teams that really don't deserve to be there. Wyoming is probably the most questionable team right now, although I've written recently about a possible bright future for Wyoming basketball. And I would expect this to be very good news for a Nevada team that has been good in both basketball and football for some time now, and certainly has a very nice core of a basketball team that is ready to win this year and into the future. Fresno State has historically been decent but has fallen on hard times, and only time will tell if the move to the Mountain West will spur them to future success.

For the WAC this is devastating, as they've really lost the rest of their traditional sporting powers. Utah State is the closest to a traditional sports power left in the conference, and after that I suppose I'd take New Mexico State. The other teams: Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, Idaho and Hawaii. Yikes. They probably have to try to steal some Conference USA teams back just for survival. The remaining WAC teams will be desperate to try to keep the conference respectable, because none of them really have much of an alternative if the conference blows up. Utah State might be able to get themselves into the Mountain West, but the other teams would be staring at a conference like the Big West.

It's hard to keep track of all of these conference moves. I don't know why these conferences feel like more is better. Members of the WAC conference should know better than any that a bigger conference isn't always a better conference.

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