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Friday, April 18, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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WAC meetings should remind UH to count its blessings

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



The 114 longest days in University of Hawaii athletic history were the anxious ones between the time Fresno State and Nevada announced they were joining Boise State in the Mountain West last summer and the conference finally inviting the Warriors on Dec. 10, 2010.

But we are reminded the waiting could have been a lot longer and considerably more anguished for the Warriors.

Consider the pained, ongoing plight of the folks UH is preparing to leave behind — San Jose State, Idaho, Utah State, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech — in the summer of 2012.

The Western Athletic Conference is scheduled to reveal its membership blueprint for 2012 at Tuesday's annual board of directors meeting and, for the moment, the band and balloons are on hold as the WAC scours the landscape for another football-playing member to fill the considerable puka left by UH.

While the Warriors make plans to move on in the new-look MWC in football and the Big West in most everything else, the future of the WAC remnants grows more uncertain with each passing day.

And most of those days lately have been spent gloomily crossing the names of prospective members off a list instead of adding any. Louisiana-Monroe: No, thanks. Lamar, Sam Houston: Check back in a few years. Cal Poly and UC Davis: not interested. North Texas: Still not interested. Montana and Montana State: Don't call us, we'll call you.

Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and Denver (non-football) signed on to replace departed Boise State and departing Fresno State and Nevada in the WAC in 2012. But if they are not exactly swap-worthy for the schools they succeed (Texas State and UTSA won't become full-fledged Football Bowl Subdivision members until 2013 and '14 respectively), replacing UH with an FBS member — or, indeed, anybody who plays football in the West — is proving harder still.

The WAC can pick up Seattle, Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley as non-football members, but that does little to assuage the anxiety of San Jose State & Co., for whom the conference has become, in the words of a former athletic director, a parking lot for schools without options.

Moreover, the WAC needs enough existing FBS schools for its Football Championship Subdivision teams to raise their status. And, so far, that search has apparently deadended.

In the interim, it would be unseemly to gloat over the WAC's predicament. There, except for the grace of the grid gods, a swift-acting administration and, probably the impending departure of Texas Christian from the MWC, UH could be stewing with the rest of the WAC. Or, be embarking on the perilous path to independence.

In that, UH should be counting its blessings even as it wonders where to come up with the estimated $1.2 million annually to underwrite conference opponents' travel costs in the MWC and Big West.

Comparing the conference shakeups to musical chairs, UH athletic director Jim Donovan once noted, "We knew when the music stopped not everybody was going to end up with a chair. But we feel like we got the equivalent of a recliner."

Watching the WAC's tribulations this week should remind UH just how well it has it and how much must be done to preserve it.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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