ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference said Monday that it has become apparent the league won’t have enough football members to compete after this season, and his focus now is on trying to keep the conference together for other sports.
The 50-year-old WAC would be the first Division I conference to give up on football since the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1995, and it might go the way of the SWC, too, and cease to exist altogether.
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“It doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the idea of football for the future, but it’s apparent we don’t have enough members in 2013 to play football,” Jeff Hurd told The Associated Press.
That means New Mexico State would have to join Idaho and play as an FBS independent next year. The WAC’s five other football members — Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, Texas State, Utah State and Texas-San Antonio — leave the league after this year.
San Jose State and Utah State are joining the Mountain West. Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio will join Conference USA, and Texas State will go to the Sun Belt in 2013.
So, the WAC would have to add six FBS programs to continue playing football.
“The bottom line is those numbers are not out there,” Hurd said. “So, my goal is to add enough schools to maintain the conference in all other sports, but football would not be one of them.”
The league must still add two or three members to maintain its Division I status as a non-football league, and there is no guarantees that will happen.
“Right now, our goal is to keep our league viable in `13-’14 as a non-football playing conference,” Hurd said.
The Denver Post first reported the story.
The WAC has been around for half a century but found itself irrelevant in the rapidly changing landscape of conference realignment. It has recently lost Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii while adding Denver and Seattle as non-football playing members.
The league was formed in 1962 with six schools — Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — that jumped ship long ago. Colorado State and Texas-El Paso were also long-time members that left, leaving the league with a hodgepodge of smaller schools.
The high mark of the WAC’s football existence was BYU’s national title in 1984 under coach LaVell Edwards. Cougars quarterback Ty Detmer won the league’s only Heisman Trophy winner six years later, and Boise State had two unbeaten seasons (2006, `09) in its nine-year stint as the league’s heavyweight.