POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 27, 2010
The University of Hawaii and Louisiana Tech football teams will clash Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, but their interests collide sooner than that.
The six remaining (at last head count, anyway) Western Athletic Conference members begin meetings with prospective expansion candidates tomorrow in Dallas, and indications are the conference's eastern-most and western-most schools are separated on the subject by more than just time zones.
For UH and Tech, there is also a philosophical divide wider than their 4,035 miles.
As the conference goes shopping to fill the vacancies left by the departure of Boise State for 2011-12 and Fresno State and Nevada likely for 2012-13, there is a difference of opinion on how to go about it.
Tech, dangling on the eastern edge of the nation's most geographically widespread conference, wants a beefed-up central time zone presence for travel and cost containment reasons.
"I believe it is very important to reduce travel costs and the most appropriate avenue is to have an east and west division," Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde said in an e-mail to the Star-Advertiser. "This would mean the WAC would need to add some teams in the central time zone," he added.
Van De Velde would not publicly reveal his "preferences," but they would appear to be Texas San Antonio and Texas State, which would also appeal to New Mexico State, among others.
Meanwhile, UH, on the WAC's western frontier, would like more of a west coast profile. Somebody — perhaps Portland State or Sacramento State — it could reach by direct flight. UH has San Jose State in its corner on this one.
The Warriors and others also look favorably upon Montana for the credibility of its Football Championship Series and basketball history.
Most of the WAC appears to be in agreement to at least give Tech a travel partner. But what has heretofore predominately been a west coast and Rocky Mountain-region-oriented league is also leery about what realignment could bring.
If, for example, Louisiana Tech gets its dream offer from Conference USA, the Bulldogs would be gone faster than a plate of crawfish etoufee at Ponchatoulas restaurant in Ruston, La.
UH and others remember that it was the deal to accommodate Rice, Tulsa, Southern Methodist and Texas Christian that brought Tech into the WAC in 2001. Three years later, all but Tech were gone and UH was closer to Tokyo and parts of Russia than Ruston.
There is also concern about what happens if UH goes independent.
Clearly, the WAC needs to add somebody — or a couple of somebodies — for 2012-13. And the pickings are indeed slim as UTSA, Texas State, Montana, Seattle and Denver, among others, come to Dallas for talks in conjunction with the Division I-A athletic directors annual meeting.
But who to add and what it might do to what they like to call the WAC's "geographic footprint" is the hard part.
Does the WAC go for eight teams, nine or two divisions of five each? Does it add Seattle and Denver as non-football members?
The betting is that they will be chewing on this for months, not days, and Saturday's UH-Tech game is but the beginning of helmet-butting.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org