At least one coach at the University of Hawaii wasn’t hitting the panic button yesterday, as news of Western Athletic Conference defections by Fresno State and Nevada went from rumor to possibility to fact.
Men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold exuded calm as he mulled the future of the WAC without the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs. Both schools announced they will leave the league for the Mountain West Conference in the next two years.
Nevada has been a perennial WAC basketball power over the last decade, while Fresno State offered one of the lengthier rivalries with the Rainbow Warriors. Fresno’s Save Mart Center and Nevada’s Lawlor Events Center also were considered two of the nicer venues in the league.
With membership down to six, the WAC’s future is considered by many as grim, but Arnold has shown himself to be an optimist since his arrival in March.
"You always want to, obviously, have a strong conference. Fresno State and Nevada have been very strong members of the WAC and with them leaving, that shakes things up a little," Arnold said. "I feel there’s a lot of movement still to happen, and who knows when all the dust settles, where we’ll all end up. We could even be stronger in some ways as well. It’ll be interesting to see, once all the final moves are made."
Boise State announced its intentions to leave for the MWC over the summer, and a day that started with positive spin for the WAC — BYU was thought to be rejoining the WAC in all sports except football — ended with another blow.
Since Arnold was hired, one-third of the WAC membership has announced its flight plans.
"I think the WAC and the university, I’m sure, will be very proactive," Arnold said. "I’m not in that decision-making process, so as a staff we sit back and watch, and try to see. A lot of our friends and colleagues obviously coach these teams, and I’m on the phone with them, seeing what they’re hearing. Again, it’s a little premature to make a total comment on everything, since I think there’s still going to be quite a bit of movement left."
The coach would not comment on any speculation surrounding BYU, where he received his bachelor’s degree and his father, Frank, also coached.