HONOLULU — The University of Hawaii is close to joining the Mountain West conference for football, raising the prospect of leaving the depleted WAC after 32 years.
School President M.R.C. Greenwood talked to Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson over the phone Thursday, and she was confident a deal would be worked out.
“We have a handshake but we have yet to agree on the details,” Greenwood said, before adding: “The people of the state of Hawaii should be very positive about this and convinced that we have a bright future.”
It’s not clear where the rest of Hawaii’s athletic programs fit in. Athletic Director Jim Donovan said his poll of the school’s 18 other teams indicated 16 of them would prefer to play in the Big West.
The Mountain West released a statement Thursday night saying the conference’s board of directors “has authorized Commissioner Craig Thompson to begin discussions with the University of Hawaii regarding possible membership in the sport of football only.”
Hawaii is the longest-running member of the Western Athletic Conference. But the WAC recently has lost Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State to the Mountain West.
Asked if Hawaii was abandoning the WAC, Donovan said the school was doing what was in its best interests.
“I have been honest all the way through that we would explore all of our options and we would do what we think was best for the University of Hawaii and our athletic programs,” Donovan said. “This was part of that process to me.”
The WAC announced last week it would add Texas-San Antonio, Texas State, and the University of Denver. Denver doesn’t have a football team.
Donovan noted these schools send the WAC farther into the middle of the country geographically, away from Hawaii, and this would increase the school’s travel expenses. He also said Mountain West schools such as Air Force were schools Hawaii fans could easily see as rivals.
Other WAC members are San Jose State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech and Utah State.