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WAC members continue to complain about (lack of) expansion

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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LaTech

Since the WAC announced it was not going to add any football schools for 2012 — it added Seattle as a basketball-only member — critics have steadily come out of the woodwork to respond to the conference's decision.

While some of those critics have been outside the conference, two others were among the remaining five teams after the WAC loses Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West.

The latest to voice strong opinions about the WAC waiting to add football schools is Louisiana Tech. Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde told the Shreveport Times he wasn't happy with the direction the WAC decided to go.

"We weren't as enthusiastic (about it) as some of the other schools," Van De Velde said. "We felt they should have added a football-playing school and we encouraged them to do so. We feel they should be looking to add a team in the Central time zone if Louisiana Tech is to remain in the WAC.

"The face of the WAC is changing with three teams now in the CST. And we think football should be the priority in adding schools."

The other two teams in the central time zone are Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, which were added previously and will join the WAC in 2012.

But it's been no secret that Louisiana Tech has been looking at other options, especially since the Bulldogs locale seems to fit better in Conference USA or the Sun Belt. Even WAC commissioner Karl Benson acknowledged that it might be tough to keep Louisiana Tech around.

"Louisiana Tech has been very clear that they are committed to the WAC. If Conference USA calls Louisiana Tech then it's a different story," Benson said.

At this time, Conference USA has not made any overtures to Louisiana Tech.
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Utah State, which at one point tried to blaze its own path to the Mountain West, has been the most outspoken university regarding WAC expansion.

It "allegedly" tried to block Utah Valley, another basketball-only member, from entering the league by stating that the conference needed to focus on football members. Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes even released a statement saying as much after the WAC added Seattle.

"Moving forward our University's position hasn't changed," Barnes said. "The WAC's long-term viability and growth must come in adding football playing members. There are numerous factors that come into play with expansion, but football must be our first priority. We have a relatively stable conference situation and Seattle will add to that. They have a storied basketball history. We welcome Seattle and look forward to competing with them."

Even Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill backed up his athletic department when it came to football.

"My preference is the same as our administration at Utah State and that is to add football playing schools to the WAC," he said in a statement.

While Benson said the conference was still looking at football programs to add, the pickings became real slim Wednesday when Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton claimed his conference, which is FCS, an NCAA league lower than the WAC, was in "a better place" than the WAC. The comments were especially harsh considering the WAC tried to court six teams from the Big Sky and were rebuffed by each. Fullerton was even so brash to suggest that WAC members Utah State and Idaho should come to the Big Sky.

The WAC is in some turmoil and the public dismay by two of its members isn't helping. For the WAC to actually grow or even survive as an FBS league, all of its members need to get on the same page and work toward putting the conference back together.

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