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5 schools targeted for WAC expansion

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Signs increasingly point to the Western Athletic Conference extending membership invitations to Denver, Seattle, Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and, possibly, Montana by the beginning of December.

All have passed the so-called first stage after presentations to the WAC membership committee Tuesday. Campus visits are upcoming, commissioner Karl Benson said yesterday.

"The (athletic directors who make up the committee) were very impressed with all five universities," said Benson, who said "the goal" is to wind things up in "30 to 60 days."

Denver and Seattle are being looked at as non-football members and Montana’s availability is pending while the school completes a feasibility study and installs a new president next month.

The WAC, currently composed of nine members, will be left with six after Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada depart for the Mountain West Conference. Boise State is due to leave after the 2010-11 season and Fresno State and Nevada might be gone after 2011-12.

"Our first goal and highest priority is to ensure that we have a minimum of eight football-playing schools for the 2012 season," Benson said.

Montana of the Big Sky Conference and Texas State of the Southland Conference are currently in the Football Championship Subdivision and would need two years to transition to full Football Bowl Subdivision membership, meaning they would initially count toward other WAC members’ wins needed for bowl eligibility, but would not immediately be eligible themselves.

UTSA begins playing football in 2011 and could initially be a provisional member.

Benson said the schools have not been put "in a rank order" yet and that won’t occur "until after the next phase" of campus visits.

Final say on who receives membership invitations rests with the WAC Board of Directors. The board is composed of member presidents and chancellors, some of whom are expected to take part in the campus visits, Benson said.

Benson said the five schools are the current focus of the membership committee.

"We will spend our time and attention during this 30- to 60-day window on those five," he said. "There may be others on the periphery that could come back into play."


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