The Western Athletic Conference, shifting its focus away from football for at least the next year, will add Utah Valley University and CSU Bakersfield in July 2013. With the two additions, the WAC will have six schools in 2013-14 — that is, if Idaho doesn't bolt to the Big Sky for all non-football sports.
Asked to comment on the WAC's move, Idaho athletic Rob Spear told the S-R: “The announcement does not impact our evaluation.”
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While Idaho tries to construct a 12-game independent schedule for 2013 and 2014, it also must decide what to do what its Olympic sports programs. As of now, Idaho has two options: 1) stay in the WAC and be in line for a financial windfall or 2) jump to the more-stable Big Sky.
If Idaho stays in the WAC, it would get a larger share of the exit fees from departing schools because it was a football-playing member. The same goes for New Mexico State. As Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman outlined:
The WAC will not distribute year-end revenue to any of its departing members, which means there is additional money for continuing members.
The WAC is losing Louisiana Tech, Utah State, San Jose State, Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Texas-Arlington (non-football) after this season. The league lost Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii after the 2011-12 academic year.
Idaho and New Mexico State, as football-playing members, are in line to receive the majority of the revenue.
“We have a formula that has been adopted (to distribute the revenue),” Hurd said. “The bulk of the money would go to football-playing members.”
WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd told the S-R Saturday during the Idaho-New Mexico State football game that he continues to talk to Spear and Idaho president Duane Nellis.
“Idaho's important to the WAC,” he said then. “I understand they have some other options, but yeah, I want to keep Idaho.”
As for becoming a football conference again, Hurd said, “We can't really do step two until we do step one. My intention and my goal now is we need to wrap up our membership and be a functioning Division I, multi-level, multi-sport conference for '13-14. We've got to get their first. Football is not going to be apart of that.
“Whether football can be apart of that beyond that, I would never say never to that. But right now my focus is on '13-14.”