"Now, we could fight ’em with conventional weapons; that could take years, and cost millions of lives. No, in this case, I think we have to go all out." — "Otter," Animal House
"You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave." — The Eagles, Hotel California
When mulling the slow but steady crumbling of the Western Athletic Conference, we can go back even farther than to the ’70s for appropriate pop culture references; Neil Sedaka was right, breaking up really is hard to do. That tune is nearly 50 years old. And it seems like Fresno State and Nevada have been trying to get out of the league for longer than they’ve been in it, although it was just two months ago that they announced the intent.
It’d be nice to just send ’em on their merry way to the Mountain West — especially since the Warriors gave the Bulldogs and the Wolf Pack some solid swats on the football field to remember them by in recent weeks.
But Hawaii needs them on the schedule next season, and it needs at least some of that money. It would be very difficult to fill two more open spots at this point (already had to replace Boise State). And a six-team conference where the second-most prominent program is Idaho or Louisiana Tech — even if Hawaii is clearly the top dog — is not where UH wants to be.
That’s why it was good news yesterday morning that a settlement had been reached, and the Warriors would have football games against Fresno State and Nevada for one more season. And some guaranteed money would be headed to the lower campus coffers.
ONLY PROBLEM is it wasn’t news … it was airwave conjecture out of Fresno mistaken for such.
This speculation also included Fresno and Nevada coughing up $1 million each instead of $5 million to leave the WAC. And their teams in sports other than football would head for the hills at the end of this school year.
A source tells us this was likely a proposal from the WACstabbers (the $1 million conveniently matches up to the entry fee for the MWC, which would likely be waived). If so, that means they want to avoid the legal system — as any sensible entity involved on either side here does.
Some angry Hawaii fans want their day in court, under the misguided belief that a maybe-$10 million for the WAC is better than an in-the-hand $2 million (which we’re told might be more).
After all, Fresno and Nevada "agreed" to five million in the loyalty promise, although with fingers crossed behind their backs and loopholes at the ready.
The forgotten dynamic in this emotional reaction is that the WAC could be on shaky legal ground. At least three reasons — call them allegations if it makes you feel better — point to this: 1) Nevada says it never signed the loyalty pledge; 2) The breakaways claim information from the WAC indicates they made the deadline to announce their departure; and 3) Once BYU didn’t join the WAC, all bets were off.
Of course, if Fresno State and Nevada had stayed the course we’re to believe that BYU would have joined up, at least in football, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Is any of this fair? No, but forget about fair. Fair went home a long time ago when it comes to conference realignment.
THE WAC and the runaways meet today, and resolution may come out of the teleconference. As much as some Hawaii fans may want it, it ain’t gonna result in a seven-figure windfall for UH and heads on sticks.
You don’t have to like Karl Benson, and his latest attempt at making a gourmet meal out of Hamburger Helper certainly flopped. But look at it this way — if the commissioner hadn’t asked for the loyalty guarantees, these schools would’ve eventually left without any parting fees.
UH needs to salvage what it can here, and the football games are a good start. Avoid more drama, it takes away from some great things happening on the field and in the arena. Avoid court, costly litigation could go on longer than the WAC continues to exist.
And most importantly: Hawaii needs to keep planning an exit strategy of its own.