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The Mountain West pulls another fast one on the WAC

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:41 a.m. HST, Aug 19, 2010



It's the same everywhere. Doesn't matter if it's a barroom or a boardroom.

First punch doesn't win. Last one does.

A jab to the body by Karl Benson. Then a roundhouse hook to the head by Craig Thompson.

Game over.

Mountain West wins again.

And this may have been a death blow to the Western Athletic Conference.

It might linger a while with some replacements from the low minors. But the WAC's guts are now officially spilled with the double-whammy loss of Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West, following Boise State's departure.

Hawaii -- victim of geography, as well as football and basketball teams that have lost more than they've won recently -- will be left with this motley crew: Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.

Ugh. They'll be in the shadow of the Sun Belt.

Well, the bright side for UH is it should have no problem dominating the league in a few sports, including football. But if commissioner Benson doesn't find some new schools there will be no WAC.

It's a sad day when the Mid-American Conference passes you on the pecking order without even doing a thing.

YESTERDAY BEGAN with such promise and potential. Indicators pointed toward Brigham Young partially returning to the WAC, bringing everything but football, which would go independent.

Sure, this didn't sit well with some UH fans, since the Cougars were among those who broke away from the WAC in 1999. But, hey, we're talking conference survival, and BYU was about to bring Dead League Walking back to life.

But folks around here have been Charlie Brown getting ready to kick the ball with Lucy holding it enough times to know better, or to at least suspect that there was more to this and it wouldn't be good for the WAC.

Lately, we find ourselves double and triple checking anytime it's said something might be positive.

And, yes, it didn't take long for this TD to be called back.

The counter strike was swift and devastating.

The Mountain West swung back by sweetening its previous offer to Fresno State and Nevada with the equivalent of handling moving expenses for a new employee. In this case it's $5 million each, the penalty for leaving the WAC.

The Bulldogs and Wolf Pack accepted quickly, making the WAC a much less attractive destination for BYU. And since the Cougars had never publicly acknowledged a desire to move, all they had to do was keep their mouths shut and cancel a press conference that never officially existed in the first place.

The turn of events turned athletic director Jim Donovan's stomach, as it should that of anyone else who cares about UH.

So, does Donovan work to patch this sinking ship or bust out that emergency independence plan?

Benson's a nice guy in my book, so I really hoped that this BYU thing would work out for his sake, too. I suggested to someone that maybe it would earn him a 15-minute cease-fire from the constant barrage of criticism he receives for not being "proactive."

I didn't mean exactly 15 minutes.

IT SEEMS like a lifetime ago when the league promoted itself with that poster featuring Colt Brennan and Ian Johnson in 2007, doesn't it? In less than three years, the WAC's gone from BCS busters to FCS recruiters. Aloha, Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada. Make room for Cal Poly, UC Davis and Sac State -- if you're lucky.

Benson looked like a creative genius in the morning. Before lunch, he'd become a guy who brought a box of checkers to a chess match.

Last night some wishful thinkers held out hope BYU would stay the course, and New Mexico and San Diego State would tag along to return to the WAC. But it seems more likely the Cougars did a little flirting to make the significant other more appreciative; and that doesn't hurt anyone ... except for the insignificant flirtee.

Twelve years ago, Karl Benson and the expendables got false-cracked. This time he got a punch in, but the result might be worse.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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