On Monday afternoon WAC commissioner Karl Benson took time to address the media following last week’s reports that the University of Hawaii was prepared to jump from the WAC to the Mountain West Conference. Benson spoke in high regard of Hawaii and confirmed his belief that the WAC will survive moving forward rather than fall apart, as many skeptics have suggested.
According to Benson the Mountain West Conference had come to him to inform him that they had an interest in adding the University of Hawaii to their conference. Knowing that the Mountain West Conference may be too good to turn down for Hawaii Benson went back to the WAC’s remaining school athletic directors to determine if it would be feasible to keep Hawaii in the WAC as a football-only member. Upon receiving positive feedback about working that plan out from the athletic directors Benson made the offer to Hawaii, only to discover that the Mountain West Conference had already been in discussions with Hawaii about the same deal.
Benson has not had contact with the school since last Thursday but plans on speaking with Jim Donovan, Hawaii’s athletic director tomorrow at a WAC volleyball tournament competition.
The Mountain West and WAC recently settled on an agreement to allow Fresno State and Nevada to join the Mountain West Conference at a cheaper cost than the WAC guidelines currently have installed after the 2011 season. Both schools will begin play in football in 2012. This followed the news that Boise State would leave the WAC for the Mountain West next year.
Losing Hawaii would be one more blow to the WAC, who recently announced that they would add Texas State and the University of Texas – San Antonio as full members and the University of Denver in all sports other than football in 2012. Both Texas schools currently compete at the FCS level. An invitation to Montana and UC Davis, both FCS schools, had previously been turned down. This brought about more speculation that if one more school left the WAC the conference would be in jeopardy moving forward.
One interesting little nugget to come out of Monday afternoon’s teleconference was the news that Benson had let the Sun Belt Conference know the WAC has an interest in adding North Texas to their conference. Benson suggested that he had hope that North Texas would consider leaving the Sun Belt conference after the WAC has added a pair of Texas schools to the conference. The move seems to be attractive for North Texas but the school has previously shied away from joining the WAC due to travel costs. With Hawaii not in the conference and more Texas schools in, perhaps North Texas would consider accepting a forthcoming invitation.
Benson said that Hawaii has yet to receive an official invite to the Mountain West Conference and no actions to invite other schools to the WAC have been made at this time.