2012 may very well be the Western Athletic Conference's (WAC) final season as a football entity. The sixth oldest conference in the nation, the WAC has had quite a run through history with many schools coming and going.
The league began in the summer of 1962, but actually had its beginnings in the few years prior when schools stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Desert Southwest and through the Rockies needed to collectively come together from disparate affiliations. But in the end, forming the original WAC were just six teams: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The New Mexico Lobos would win the first conference title.
Five years later, Colorado State and Texas El Paso (UTEP) joined to make it an eight team conference. The two Arizona schools became dominant over the years and would eventually leave in the late '70s for the Pac-10. At about that same time though, San Diego State College and the University of Hawaii Rainbows - coached by Dick Tomey - joined the WAC. In 1980, the Air Force Academy was added and the WAC would go 12 years as a nine-team league. BYU won the National Championship in 1984, giving the conference a huge boost.
In 1990, the WAC agreed they needed to expand (source - L.A. Times) and a year later added the Fresno State Bulldogs, who left the Big West (which dissolved 10 years later as a football conference), creating a ten-team league. Then things got interesting.
Not so super
A confluence of events occurred and a huge expansion, the likes which had never been seen before (or since), exploded onto the scene in 1996 when the WAC added six new schools: Rice, San Jose State, SMU, TCU, Tulsa and UNLV. A super conference was formed.
But the conference was unwieldy and its quadrant system was not exactly a winner, lending to unhappy schools. Several teams including the original WAC schools didn't want to have anything more to do with this unmanageable monster; so after three seasons, eight teams in whole, left in 2000 to form a new conference - the Mountain West. The super-conference had not worked (source - Herald-Review).
The remaining teams in the WAC were: UTEP, Hawaii, Fresno State, Rice, San Jose State, SMU, TCU and Tulsa. However, with only eight schools extending across many time zones, this alliance couldn't last.
Nevada was brought on in 2000 but TCU was out the next season, though at the same time Boise State and Louisiana Tech came on board, making the WAC a ten-team conference. But still, it was out of proportion for some of the eastern schools and four left in 2005 for Conference USA: Rice, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP. By the way, with UTEP gone, Hawaii was now the oldest WAC school.
The WAC added three teams in '05 - Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State - bringing the leagues numbers to nine. As a side note, New Mexico State and Utah State had tried to join the WAC originally when it was first formed but were rejected.
Broncos - beginning of the end
The Boise State Broncos were becoming a national powerhouse, often busting into the BCS. But none of the other schools had that kind of success except for Hawaii Warriors who went to the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
After 2010, the Broncos left for the Mountain West. During the summer of 2010, Fresno State and Nevada announced their intent to also leave for the Mountain West after 2011 (source - Al.com). Before the 2010 season was over, Hawaii stunned everyone saying they too would leave the WAC for the Mountain West (source - Star-Advertiser). The WAC suddenly was collapsing.
Texas San Antonio (UTSA) and Texas State were added for the 2012 season, bringing to seven the amount of schools playing football. Recently, Utah State and San Jose State declared they were leaving for the Mountain West while Louisiana Tech announced they would be going to Conference USA in 2013. Then the two new teams, UTSA and Texas State made a u-turn saying they would be moving to Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, respectively.
Confused? Well, what's important to know at this point is, this leaves only two schools, New Mexico State and Idaho - the WAC is on a respirator waiting for the plug to be pulled.
The folks in the WAC headquarters in Denver won't have football anymore but the conference might survive as a league for Olympic sports. With the advent of all this college football realignment though, the big-time is over for the WAC. 50 years later, it's goodbye.
Sources - Western Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference
Through thick and thin, Daryle has been a huge fan of Hawaii since visiting there 40 years ago and dozens of times since. Go 'Bows!
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