Talks between the University of Hawaii and the Mountain West Conference are progressing to the point where an announcement of membership for UH could be made before Christmas.
"Everything is on track and going very well," an official briefed on the issue but not cleared to speak publicly said yesterday. Barring an unforeseen delay, "we hope to have more news before Christmas," the official added.
The assessment came a day after a UH delegation, including vice president Rockne Freitas and athletic director Jim Donovan, spent more than 2 hours with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson and some key conference officials in Colorado.
Freitas and Donovan were traveling yesterday, and Thompson was not immediately able to respond to questions through a spokesman.
It apparently was not the only partnership UH was trying to strike there. UH president M.R.C. Greenwood, Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and other administrators met with the MWC as part of a stopover in Golden, Colo., about 83 miles from the MWC’s Colorado Springs headquarters, where they held discussions with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
UH is seeking to move its No. 25-ranked football team from the Western Athletic Conference to the MWC while finding a home for most of its other sports in the California-contained Big West Conference.
Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell said UH was one of three schools that submitted information to be considered for membership by yesterday’s deadline. He said the other two were Cal State Bakersfield and UC San Diego.
The Big West Council is scheduled to meet Dec. 8 to review the files and may make a recommendation to the board of directors at that time.
UH has until June 30, 2011, to declare its intention to depart the WAC in order to be able to compete in the MWC and Big West for the 2012-13 school year. But the school hopes to solidify its status this month to take advantage of it in recruiting.
January is a pivotal month in football recruiting, and the national letter of intent day, the first date that recruits may sign binding letters, is Feb. 2, 2011.
But officials cautioned that several other parties, including TV partners, must be consulted in the process.
Meanwhile, UH and the MWC are apparently in agreement on most key issues with the details of their television relationship and travel subsidies — which the parties now refer to as "cost sharing" — the most complex hurdles remaining.
In talks with UH so far, there has not been an insistence on a so-called buy-in fee to join the conference. When Fresno State and Nevada were offered memberships in August, Thompson said the financial entry demands would be balanced so as not to adversely impact their competitiveness.
The addition of UH would give the MWC 10 teams for 2012-13, although conference members have discussed the possibility of going to 12 teams.