A majority of University of Hawaii coaches are currently in favor of joining the Big West Conference rather than remaining in the Western Athletic Conference, some of them said yesterday.
"I haven’t met a coach yet who prefers staying (in the WAC)," said a coach who asked to remain anonymous because they have been cautioned not to speak for the athletic department or school.
Some coaches say they have begun to tell prospective recruits UH is likely to be in the Big West in two years.
One scenario UH is investigating amid the current WAC shakeup is to have its football team go independent and place its other 18 sports in the nine-team, California-based Big West, a conference that does not compete in football.
Boise State will leave the nine-member WAC in 2011-12 and Fresno State and Nevada are expected to join the Broncos in the Mountain West Conference in 2012-13.
After discussing the situation with coaches last month, athletic director Jim Donovan asked them to prioritize in memos where they would like to see their programs compete.
"Everybody I’ve talked to said they preferred the Big West," said one coach. "And I’ve talked to almost everybody."
Donovan was traveling yesterday and was not immediately available for comment.
"As much as we are loyal to the WAC, we want what is best for our programs and the athletes, and, at this point in time, that is the Big West," another coach said. "That could change, but right now it is the Big West."
But coaches said they realize that the best fit for football, the biggest money maker, will likely drive the decision.
"We understand that," said a prominent coach.
UH’s most decorated coach, Dave Shoji of Rainbow Wahine volleyball, acknowledged in an interview with KKEA, 1420-AM radio earlier this week that his "secret desire" has been to "go back to the Big West."
The Rainbow Wahine competed in the Big West and its predecessor, the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, from 1985-95, winning five championships.
UH and Big West officials have talked on several occasions. An athletic director in the Big West told the Star-Advertiser, "I’m just one voice in the Big West Conference, but if Hawaii was interested in joining there would certainly be a lot of support if all the travel budgets could be reasonably worked out in advance."
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Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo), Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and Pacific make up the Big West.
The Big West athletic director said a move to his league, "would probably save (Hawaii) a lot of travel expense money by maintaining league travel competition in the state of California."
Said a UH coach, "from a money, competition and recruiting standpoint, the Big West makes the most sense for most of our sports."