POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 15, 2010
SUMMERLIN, NEV. » I hate you and it's obvious this relationship is over. So get out of my house ... but not yet, I still need you.
We've heard versions of this one before, right? Just not quite in this context, not set in the strange new world of college athletic conference realignment.
In the latest episode of "As The WAC Burns," the beleaguered league is taking two of its not-so-dearly-departing members to court -- to keep them around for two years. They want out ASAP, but missed the deadline to state their intention to bag it for the Mountain West at the end of the current school year.
In a perfect world for commissioner Karl Benson and the remaining six schools -- actually, for everyone involved -- the WAC would just tell Fresno State and Nevada to beat it, immediately. It would be, you can't quit, you're fired. Scram, get lost.
But the holdovers want good riddance to wait until after the 2011 school and fiscal year, as unsavory as that might seem. There's really no way around it. As much as they may loathe the defectors, they need them.
Once again, the WAC deals from a position of weakness. With no attractive replacements ready to jump into the league after this year (or ever?), the WAC needs the defectors around as long as possible. Also, athletic directors are already scrambling to fill football schedule openings left by Boise State's bounce to the MWC after this season (some, like Hawaii, get dates with BYU, but the Cougars can't and won't accommodate all six teams).
Filling one football schedule opening with this little time before next year is bad enough. Try three.
YOU MIGHT not like Boise State and the fact that the Broncos are also telling the WAC hasta la vista. But at least Boise State didn't do it in underhanded, devious fashion like Fresno and Nevada.
How about the brazenness of Nevada president Milton Glick's comments to a Reno radio station yesterday? Sounds like Benson hurt his feelings. All at once now: Awwwww.
"It is unfortunate that this matter has moved to litigation before any discussions between the parties were undertaken. We have been very public about our desire to resolve these matters directly with the Western Athletic Conference and to do so as expeditiously as possible."
Uh, sorry Milty, but you lost any claim to the high road as soon as you backstabbed the WAC after agreeing to hang in there to see how BYU's big move worked out.
Fresno State president John Welty said he's disappointed the WAC has taken this step, too.
Really, what did he expect? Well, maybe with the league's track record he had a reasonable expectation to keep trampling all over the remnants of what was once a decent midmajor conference.
Now the defectors say they were led to believe by information in a handbook put out by the WAC that they had until Sept. 1 to declare intent to exit. Is this a potential legal loophole, like Nevada's claim it never agreed to the $5 million loyalty pledge because it never signed the paperwork? At the very least, it sounds like administrative sloppiness on the part of the WAC.
Maybe it won't stand up in court, but fighting those contentions will cost the WAC resources, including legal fees.
Then there's that lingering $5-million question. Fresno State and Nevada are both trying to wriggle out of paying it, and as slimy as it is, it's understandable. Business is business. Sometimes it gets dirty, and you must be careful whom you trust.
If anything's been learned from all this it is that athletic conferences are simply marriages of convenience, not honor.
And this divorce is going to get really messy.