I hate to say I called it, but I did. Mostly.
We’ve talked the state of the Western Athletic Conference and the possibilities when it comes to realignments that could bolster the conference and bring it back into the ranks of FBS on numerous occasions now.
On both occasions I mentioned that they’d likely need to dip their toes into the waters of the Big Sky and/or Southland conferences in order to have a realistic shot at this goal. There are already rumors of Southern Utah coming over from the Big Sky, as well as the four Southland Conference schools mentioned in that tweet.
I said in the past that “Incarnate Word, Abilene Christian, Lamar, and Central Arkansas could all make sense. They all have enrollments and/or endowments that would be comfortably in line with the rest of the WAC, as well as recent histories of football and basketball success to go with past FBS experience and/or future FBS aspirations.”
I went further to posit a hypothetical WAC membership (at least for football) that looked something like this:
- WAC West – Dixie State, Southern Utah, UTEP, New Mexico State
- WAC East – Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word, Tarleton State, Houston Baptist
Obviously there’s no way of knowing how many – if any – of the aforementioned schools will actually accept the invites they’ve been offered. Sam Houston State and Southern Utah have both stated publicly that they have not formally received any offer from the WAC, but that only means so much in a world where schools regularly deny something because it’s in the works and they don’t want to spoil anything.
Lamar and Abilene Christian expand the WAC footprint more solidly into Texas and gain a couple of schools with strong endowments and upwardly mobile aspirations. Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State are another pair of Texas schools with strong athletic backgrounds in basketball and football respectively (shout out to Danny Kaspar and Willie Fritz), while Southern Utah is another school in hot pursuit of FBS status with no other clear way of achieving it.
Such a conference would make for an interesting mix, though the geography could get a bit wonky. If we make a conference out of the current schools and the rumored additions, it looks like this (football programs in bold italics):
New Mexico State, Dixie State, Tarleton State, UT-Rio Grande Valley, Grand Canyon, Seattle, Chicago State, Utah Valley, California Baptist, Southern Utah, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian, and Lamar.
There are a lot of issues to deal with here. The first is that the membership would become a bit skewed towards Texas in this geography, especially in football, which is why I initially went for a mix of Big Sky and Southland teams in my realignment vision.
That said, perhaps the perks of having FBS football again are far superior to “getting the exact geography as clean as possible”, so that’s perhaps a relatively minor issue.
More to the point, this conference footprint would have six schools in Texas, three in Utah, four that are west of Texas and/or Utah… and Chicago State. I’ve already been banging this drum for a while, but a Western Athletic Conference that is clearly intent on expanding within it’s existing western footprint has no place for a school in Chicago that doesn’t have the resources to compete at the Division 1 level in general, let alone in a conference a thousand miles away.
The good news is that the WAC appears to be making further in-roads with their dogged pursuit of a return to FBS football, but there is still some work to be done in order for their current thought process to get to a truly logical conclusion. I’m all for it, but will hope they keep their geography logical and are able to finally end the absurdity that is Chicago State’s participation in the conference.