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With the WAC on life support, its remaining members weigh options

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(Alicia Carlson/AP)

The WAC could be in its final year as a football conference.

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting Utah State is headed to the Mountain West as is San Jose State to replace Boise State and San Diego State, who are leaving for the Big East after this season.

The report also said Louisiana Tech is going to Conference USA joining Texas-San Antonio, which is voting on the move to C-USA this week. UTSA joins the WAC this season, but was one of the additions back in Nov. 2010.

The move leaves Idaho, New Mexico State and Texas State as the remaining football-playing schools in the conference. Boise State, Denver and Seattle are non-football members. Texas State also could be on its way out if the Sun Belt loses a school to Conference USA and the Sun Belt adds the Bobcats to keep a foot in Texas.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told Vandal Nation: "I don't expect Texas State will be without a place to play football."

If all of the reported teams leave, the WAC will be in an almost impossible position. It's already tried to court several teams from the FCS ranks and has consistently been turned down. Last summer, Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton said his conference was a better option than the WAC and the way the conference has fallen apart, he wasn't wrong.

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(Jason O. Watson/US Presswire)

This mass defection from the WAC shouldn't come as a surprise. Utah State and San Jose State have been pitching their attributes to the Mountain West for more than a year. Louisiana Tech has been trying to get into Conference USA for years and UTSA is new program that's just trying to put itself in the best possible position for the future. Idaho and New Mexico State, the last remaining non-expansion members, have always been the forgotten teams and should have always been looking for a Plan B.

However, what that plan might be is still up in the air. The WAC — or what's left of it — is holding meetings this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the main topic will be the preservation of the conference. It's unlikely that any of the teams rumored for defection are going to change their minds. That leaves the conference looking for at least five full-member schools to keep the conference in Division I status.

Texas-Arlington is set to join the conference in 2013 as a non-football school. Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield were looking at the WAC as a non-football option, but had no agreement with the conference.

But if the league starts to crumble, those perspective teams could back out. UT-Arlington could probably go back to the Southland Conference. Denver also might be able to return to the Sun Belt as a non-football member. Denver left the Sun Belt on good terms and has a great relationship with Benson.

Boise State might have to look at the Big Sky or Summit league for its non-football teams. The Big West already turned the Broncos down.

But what about New Mexico State and Idaho? New Mexico State came from the Sun Belt and was actually rumored to return there when the WAC first started losing teams. Athletic director McKinley Boston declined to comment of the turmoil, but there's no doubt it would be very difficult for the Aggies to find a new home without moving to the FCS. Similarly, Idaho doesn't have any viable FBS conference options. Last summer, Fullerton mentioned he had been courting Utah State and Idaho to come to the Big Sky. It will be interesting to see if an offer is still on the table.

Obviously, neither New Mexico State or Idaho want to take a step down from the FBS, but it might be the only way to preserve the program.

Seeing how all of this unfolds in the next week will be interesting. The WAC has been struggling to hold on for the past year and now it looks as though it might actually be a few steps away from not existing altogether.

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