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Further ReviewSports

Changing landscape could mean a much different WAC ‘footprint’

Karl Benson reminded us several times yesterday that the footprint of the Western Athletic Conference, of which he is commissioner, is a big one. Sasquatch big. Big enough to go with Barry Bonds’ head.

It goes all the way from the big toe at Aloha Stadium to the heel in Ruston, La.

The problem is large doesn’t always mean in charge.

If a big geographic footprint meant the big-time economically and prestige-wise, Boise State wouldn’t be frantically trying to beg its way out of the WAC. And this is nothing new. The Broncs have been buckin’ nearly since the time they joined up in 2000.

And who’s to blame them? With rare exception, no one in the WAC’s competed with Boise State in football. Now, I hear that argument all the time about BSU not really having a whole lot other than a very good football team to offer a suitor, and maybe that’s why the Mountain West didn’t pop the question yesterday as so many expected.

I’m not convinced that’s a big factor. When it comes to money matters, football remains king and doesn’t seem to be abdicating the throne any time soon. Basketball and its NCAA Tournament money is important, too, and Boise State hasn’t been very good. But in hoops, it doesn’t take a whole lot to turn things around; the Broncos have a new coach, and as Hawaii fans know, that means renewed hope.

The real issue is that the Mountain West took a wait-and-see approach because of outside forces. If the Big 12 comes tumbling down, some of the leftovers might be more attractive than Boise State, which lacks a BCS conference-type fan base.

BACK TO Geography 101 and the big footprint. It might be good to be spread out across the country if this were a game of Risk and Benson’s trying to take over North America. But the WAC needs to compress rather than expand because of travel costs.

LaTech could be gone soon, and no offense, but good riddance. Nice Guy Karl talks about LaTech being a good WAC member, but really? The people there are friendly and the Bulldogs have done well in some niche sports (read non-revenue), but how exactly has LaTech ever helped the WAC? When’s the last time it brought in BCS bowl money for members to share? Never. NCAA hoops tourney money? Never. Big airfare bills? Always.

Now, you could say the same about Hawaii on the travel costs, but there’s the exemption that allows visitors an extra football game to defray it.

Somebody actually asked Benson about eastward expansion yesterday. What?

On second thought, why not? Replace Boise State with Charleston Southern and UH won’t have to pay it an appearance fee next time. While you’re at it, add the old Oakland Raider Otis Sistrunk’s alma mater, the University of Mars.

IT STILL looks like Boise’s gone, just not yet. Benson sounds resigned to it; he’s been through enough of these realignments to know. And he can’t say it, but he and everyone else also know that the WAC is never working from a position of power in these situations.

"The poker playing that is going on is unprecedented," he said.

Which makes it wise on the part of the Mountain West not to show its cards yet. Unfortunately, the WAC is short-stacked and holds deuce-seven unsuited.

But hey – how ’bout that humongous footprint?


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


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