Two years ago, the Western Athletic Conference was hanging by a thread. Kansas City and CSU Bakersfield were leaving the conference. The auto bid to the NCAA tournament was in jeopardy. It was a mess. But, then, prior to the 2020-21 fiscal year starting, commissioner Jeff Hurd made some moves. Tarleton and Dixie State were joining the conference to replace the departing Roos and Roadrunners.
One year later, Hurd and his staff made another gigantic move. The WAC went into Texas and brought over four more schools to solidify the conference even more. With these four schools, Hurd also brought in Southern Utah from the Big Sky who joins the WAC in 2022-23. And Hurd wasn’t done there. In November, the WAC announced the University of Incarnate Word will join the WAC for the 2022-23 season.
Hanging by a thread? Not so much.
And now, late Wednesday night, the WAC is making even more moves according to reports.
Source: The WAC is in discussions with UT Arlington about adding the school as a full member. The expected addition would go into effect for the 2022-23 season.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 6, 2022
UT Arlington is in discussions to return to the WAC. The Mavericks were members of the WAC in 2012-13 before moving to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013-14. The Mavericks don’t sponsor football but would be a full member for all other sports. If the Mavericks do join the WAC, the foothold in Texas is even stronger. Plus, the additions of Incarnate Word and UT Arlington help offset the departures of New Mexico State and Sam Houston to Conference USA in 2023-24.
In 2023-24 this is what the WAC will look like. You will have seven Texas schools. Five of those schools have football. Then, you will have six schools in the West and two of those sponsor football in Utah Tech and Southern Utah. Utah Tech is the new name for Dixie State beginning in July when the new fiscal year starts. And, to even the numbers out, the WAC may look to add one more school to the mix.
If the Mavericks do join the WAC, it will be another solid move by the conference.
Remember when the WAC was hanging by a thread? Or that there was even a discussion the WAC would be in trouble when Sam Houston and New Mexico State made their announcements? Yeah, those seem like a distant memory as the WAC continues to be proactive with regard to conference realignment.
Potential Departures? Highly Unlikely
When the news came out that UT Arlington is in talks with the WAC, some fans has similar reactions. ‘GCU, CBU and Seattle should all leave for the WCC.’ ‘The WAC is going to break up between the football and basketball schools.’
And it just went on and on.
I will try to explain this as best as I can from what I have been told. As long as Gonzaga is king of the WCC, Seattle U will not get an invite. Plain and simple. The Zags do not want the Redhawks in the conference.
Second, the WCC already has a solid hold on the Los Angeles market with Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. So adding CBU would not bring much benefit to the conference other than it is a religious school that fits the MO.
GCU is a logical choice for two reasons: the Phoenix market is intriguing to the WCC and GCU is a religious school, as well. However, the question then becomes: does the WCC want to deal with the negative connotation that GCU faces with the for-profit situation?
Sure, never say never. But, with the WAC solidifying itself, there is no reason to jump ship.
On Wednesday afternoon, the WAC said the game between Lamar and New Mexico State in Beaumont was cancelled. And, as part of this, it would be considered a forfeit for WAC seeding purposes but a No Contest for NET rankings.
Some question why it is a forfeit as the rule was technically done away with. I will try to explain as best as I can.
Lamar has been dealing with injuries all season long. In fact, they haven’t fielded a full squad this season. So, along with COVID issues, Lamar most likely made the decision to simply not play the game. The Cardinals may have had the minimum number of players and coaches to play the game.
But, due to other circumstances like injuries, they made the choice to simply not play the game and get beat up on some more. Thus, why it is a forfeit. It wasn’t simply a COVID issue. If it was, this game would have most likely been rescheduled.
Four Games on the Slate
There are four games on the slate for WAC Hoops on Thursday night.
Game of the Week
Stephen F. Austin at Abilene Christian – 6 p.m. MT ESPN+
Seattle U at Chicago State – 6 p.m. MT ESPN+
Grand Canyon at UTRGV – 6 p.m. MT ESPN+
Sam Houston at Tarleton – 6 p.m. MT ESPN+