The reshaping of the Western Athletic Conference continued Thursday with the addition of the University of Texas-Arlington. But don’t expect the membership changes to stop there.
With UTA, which will move from the Southland Conference in July 2012, the WAC will have 10 members – seven that sponsor football and three that don’t – and much better geographic balance. Commissioner Karl Benson said the conference will attempt to add two more football-playing schools.
“I think our priority right now is strictly on the football side,” Benson said. “And we definitely need to focus on the football piece (of the puzzle).”
UTA will join the University of Denver and Seattle University as new members without football programs. Unlike Denver and Seattle U, though, the Mavericks are expected to pursue adding football.
UTA had a football program until 1985, and there’s momentum to bring it back, Benson said. Moving to the WAC could hasten a decision.
“I think being a member of WAC puts (UTA President Jim Spaniolo) in a good position to study football,” UI athletic director Rob Spear said.
The WAC’s latest addition happened quickly. Last month, when announcing that Seattle was coming on board, Benson told reporters that the WAC would have nine schools for 2012-13. UTA wasn’t on the radar – at least not for such a quick move.
But then Benson approached Spaniolo about switching conferences, and there was immediate interest from UTA.
The school is located in the major Dallas-Fort Worth media market and is building a 6,500-seat basketball and volleyball arena that caught the eye of the WAC.
The WAC will lose Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii next year after already watching Boise State leave in July. Those schools will be replaced by UTA, Texas State, University of Texas-San Antonio, Denver and Seattle.
With 10 teams, Benson said scheduling and team travel will be easier and more efficient. Most of the members will have natural travel partners, including the pairing of Seattle and Idaho.
“There was a strong desire to get to 10 teams,” Spear said. “… As we evaluated (UTA), they became very attractive.”
• Spear said he’s still hopeful that the Vandals will renew their rivalry with Boise State in football. But the schools won’t play in 2012. Spear is close to announcing UI’s final two nonconference opponents for ’12. The earliest BSU and Idaho could play is 2013.
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