Tag:WAC
Posted on: October 9, 2010 10:28 pm
 

What I learned from the Non-BCS teams (Oct. 9)

By J. Darin Darst

1. We are in for a great battle in the Mountain West between Utah, TCU and Air Force. Is their any doubt that this conference is better than the Big East? It's very easy to say TCU is the best team because it is ranked the highest in the polls, but I'm not so sure about that. And I'm not so sure anybody comes out of the this conference undefeated. Utah has looked just as good as TCU this season and absolutely destroyed Iowa State on Saturday night. TCU hosts Air Force on Oct. 23 and then travels to play at Utah on Nov. 6. Air Force hosts Utah on Oct. 30. That's quite a three-week stretch for three Top 25 teams. I'll take any three of those teams over anybody from the Big East.

2. Army looks like it is headed to a bowl for the first time since 1996. Sure, the Black Knights only beat Tulane, but this team is 4-2. They have also scored 194 points this season, 10 more than all of last year. It only needs to come up with two more victories to play in the Armed Forces Bowl. It plays VMI on Oct. 30, which will most certainly be a win, so Army just needs to find one more victory -- at Rutgers, Air Force, at Kent State, at Notre Dame or at Navy. You know most of the nation will be rooting for them.

3. Northern Illinois might be the frontrunner in the MAC, not Temple. The Owls looked like the team to beat until today as Northern Illinois defeated them 31-17. Chandler Harnish threw two touchdown passes and Chad Spann rushed for 100 yards and a score in the victory. Northern Illinois is 4-2, 2-0 in the conference and has victories over Minnesota (not a huge accomplishment, but its still a BCS team) and barely lost to Illinois 28-22. The biggest game left on its schedule is probably at road trip to Western Michigan on Oct. 30. Stay tuned.

4. Troy is by far the best team in the Sun Belt. Many, including myself, thought Middle Tennessee would win the conference. But even with Dwight Dasher back for MTSU, Troy blasted the Blue Raiders 42-13 on Tuesday night. Since the Sun Belt gets two bowl bids, the bigger question is -- who is the second-best team? It's up for grabs, but Louisiana-Lafayette looks to be up for the challenge. Despite starting the season at 0-4, Florida International could be the second-best team. It hung with Rutgers and Texas A&M in non-conference play.

Posted on: October 6, 2010 7:35 pm
 

Montana AD talks money with fans in long e-mail

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As has been reported earlier, Montana is one of the schools being closely considered for membership in the WAC. It'd be a huge step up for the Grizzlies, who haven't been a I-A football school since 1962, and Montana fans are understandably anxious about whether a study commissioned by the school determines Montana should move up a division or not. These aren't decisions to be made on a whim, like what to eat at McDonalds or hiring Lane Kiffin.

Montana's AD Jim O'Day has heard these concerns, and replied with a remarkably long, detailed e-mail that was circulated among Montana fans before being posted to eGriz.com, a popular Montana Grizzlies fan board. We have confirmed with the Montana athletic department that the letter is genuine. And while it's much too long to post here in full, there was one particularly scary detail about how the school currently struggles with finances (bolded emphasis ours):

The FCS playoff system is hurting financially. We produced $1.1 million of last year’s budget of $2.5 million. The other 11 games produced less than $1 million TOTAL. The NCAA lost almost $500,000 again, and it will not continue to tolerate to follow this plan. Now we’ve added another round and four more teams…. Being on the committee, and as chair, I know this is a major concern to the NCAA – and a last-gasp reason for changing to Frisco, Texas, in hopes of attracting more attention and support. It won’t help to move the championship back three weeks into January – let alone that it will be taking place 40 minutes away from the Cotton Bowl, which has also been moved to that night. So much for FCS exposure on national television. Just to keep the student-athletes on campus during Christmas will also cost the two schools in the championship an additional $100,000 – none of which is budgeted. And to put in perspective, we LOST $150,000 each of the past two year going to the championship game. Had we won, the incentives for coaches would have put the losses over $200,000 each time. We get no additional revenue for any of this.

It's really strange to think of a school being unable to afford to win a championship in football, but depending on what budget flexibility existed at Montana, that could have certainly been the case. Now, an economist would look at this and simply deduce that the compensation structure is insane -- after all, according to O'Day, winning the title would not have resulted in the revenue necessary to justify $50,000 in bonuses. But incentives in a highly competitive job field are often just this insane, so here we are.

It is a cannon shot to the stomach of playoff advocates to see this kind of evidence that the current FCS playoff structure is -- to put it lightly -- in serious trouble. Of course, the money involved in a FBS playoff would be dramatically different, but the unpredictable nature of the playoff is usually a severe detriment to fan involvement, and we see that in the light revenues from most of the FCS playoff games this year. Fans can't reliably make and change plans week to week, and that's what would be asked if the NCAA moved anywhere past a plus-one format.

But this is about Montana, and whether Montana should go to the WAC, and their own financial struggles despite being the preeminent FCS program west of the Mississippi. Why do they struggle? Because the rest of the conference knows Montana's the cash cow. Take what happens whenever Montana plays at arch-rival Montana State:

By league policy, 60% of the revenue from these telecasts go to the HOME team (not UM), 35% to the visitor and 5% to the league. So how out-of-line is this: Last year, MSU received $60,000 of KPAX’s bid (to do UM games), while Montana received $35,000 and the conference $5,000. These are the reasons why Boise State left the Big Sky in the mid-1990s; why BYU and Texas are doing what they’re doing right now. They want to control their television money. The television money should be following UM, but we get outvoted on this 8-1 whenever it comes up.

Of course, this can only mean disaster for the Big Sky if that cash cow leaves, and O'Day freely acknowledges that as a concern. It's easy to say "well the Big Sky's problems aren't Montana's problems," but they are Montana State's, and Montana doesn't exist in a vacuum away from the other member schools -- especially if Division I changes force Montana to rejoin any of them in the unforeseen future.

So if things are this up in the air for Montana, the strongest of the five contenders for WAC membership, imagine what uncertainty awaits the other schools trying to make the leap -- and, for that matter, what awaits the schools who aren't even considering a move to FBS.

Posted on: October 5, 2010 1:02 pm
 

Idaho AD Rob Spear can finally fly Horizon Air

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Last year the Idaho Vandals were getting ready to board a plane to head to Boise to take on in-state rival Boise State when athletic director Rob Spear refused to get on the plane.   Why?  Well, the plane was painted in orange and blue, which happen to be Boise State's colors.  It's one of many planes that Horizon Air has given college themes, including planes for Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.

Well, Spear said at the time that he wouldn't fly on a Horizon Air plane until they'd painted one with an Idaho Vandals theme.  It looks like he won't be missing any road games in the near future.

Horizon Air has announced that a Q400 aircraft will be painted in Idaho silver and gold. The plane will be available for service in November, a year after Spear made headlines for declining to board the Boise State plane.

In a statement, Spear called the Vandal plane a "bold recognition of Idaho's flagship university."

So I guess you can say that the plane has been Vandal-ized.  Oh man, trust me that one hurt me just as much to type it as it did for you to read it.  Seriously, though, this hardly seems fair.  George Clooney's character in Up In The Air had to fly ten million miles just to get his name put on an airplane, and Spear just has to throw a hissy-fit and he gets his own personally themed plane.

Who knew the athletic director at Idaho could have so much pull?  If I'm Alabama AD Mal Moore I'm demanding my own airport.

Hat tip to the good Doctor.
Posted on: September 29, 2010 7:36 pm
 

WAC targets: UTSA, TSU, Denver, Seattle, Montana

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Last week, we mentioned that the WAC was entertaining two potential new members in UT-San Antonio and Texas State as part of the conference's quest to, well, save itself. The WAC has only six members lined up for the 2011 season, and while the NCAA will recognize the WAC and allow its members postseason bids if a group of at least five schools have been in the same conference for the five prior years is there, six just won't cut it when it comes to actually making schedules.

At any rate, we weren't terribly impressed by UTSA or TSU, but were intrigued by commissioner Karl Benson's statement that there were three other schools that would be presenting to the WAC during their meeting in Dallas this week. It was intriguing mainly because, well, who would they be? All of the FBS schools in the WAC's central region are in the Mountain West or Pac-10, and both of those conferences were acquiring schools during the latest conference realignments, not losing them. Now we know the rest of them, and... well, it's a work in progress:

 

The league is studying the possibility of adding the University of Texas-San Antonio, Texas State University, the University of Denver, Seattle University and the University of Montana in the wake of losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference.

All five schools will remain on the WAC radar after a meeting of the league’s membership committee in Dallas earlier this week, though Benson left open the possibility that other prospective members “could come back into play” if there’s another round of conference realignment.

Interestingly enough, the school with the best football program of the bunch (which isn't saying much, since three don't even have programs) is Montana, and they didn't put together a formal presentation for the meetings because they were still waiting on the results of a study into whether it's worth their time to move from FCS to FBS designation. Instinctively, the answer to that question is yes; Grizzlies fans routinely pack Washington-Grizzly Stadium at a capacity of a little over 25,000, so even if the WAC or NCAA want capacity expanded, there'll probably be butts in the new seats. But we'll see what the study says.

Past that, the Universities of Denver and Seattle wouldn't even bother fielding football teams (wise), so while they could very well be smart additions for every other sport, they're not going to help fill out a conference schedule when the time comes. That's why, barring the re-entry of new schools into this discussion, we think UTSA and Texas State will end up joining the conference: at the end of the day, you need guys on the gridiron.

And no, those aren't particularly impressive candidates, but you know what? If anyone's acutely aware of how non-AQ the WAC is, it's the WAC, and at the very least they're not wasting anybody's time by publicly courting Oklahoma State or the like. The WAC is what it is, and Benson's just embracing it these days.

Posted on: September 29, 2010 4:30 pm
 

Boise State safety Venable suspended for one half

Posted by Adam Jacobi

When Boise State kicks off their conference season against powerhouse (cough) New Mexico State this weekend, they'll be doing so without one of their leaders on defense. Winston Venable, a senior safety, was suspended one half by WAC commissioner Karl Benson after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers. From Benson:

"After reviewing this play, it was determined that a flagrant personal foul should have been called by the game officials which would have resulted in the player being ejected" said WAC commissioner Karl Benson.

Rodgers, who wasn't even the ball-carrier on the play (it was a quarterback scramble by Ryan Katz), suffered a concussion and appeared to lose consciousness briefly.

The WAC was planning on suspending Venable for a game before a Boise State appeal cut the punishment in half. The Broncos obviously don't need to have Venable in their secondary to beat NMSU; heck, they could throw head coach Chris Peterson back there and still win by 30. But preparation and routine are important in football, and it'll be easier for Venable to stay in the proper mindset for the season if he's going through practice and preparing to actually be on the field come Saturday -- even if the game could be such a blowout that the rest of the starters will be ordered to sit at the half.

To the larger point, though, it's nice to see a commissioner's office take some proactive steps to combat this sort of thing. Venable's hit didn't make a lot of sense from a football perspective; he didn't try to shed the block, he just decided to initiate the inevitable contact rather than absorb it, and he laid a hellacious hit on Rodgers. Of course, while he was doing that, Katz was staying on his feet and picking up the first down. Tactically, it was a dumb decision, and it ended up being a pretty dangerous one too. Football's got to start actively avoiding that style of play; it's not "dirty" in the normal sense of the word, but it leads to enough brain injury -- on both sides and both immediate and cumulative -- that it's in everybody's best interests to stop such play.

Posted on: September 20, 2010 8:49 pm
 

UTSA, TSU hope WAC likes the idea of 'Texpansion'

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Following the impending exodus of Nevada and Boise State, the WAC looks to be in dire straits; the most high-profile member remaining will be, like, Hawaii -- and that's not the football program it used to be by any stretch. But if the WAC's expecting great candidates to step forward to fill the voids being left, they're probably not going to be blown away by the schools presenting themselves to the WAC at a meeting later this month:

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said Texas State and UT-San Antonio will make presentations to the league's membership committee at its Sept. 28 meeting in Dallas. The membership committee is comprised of the athletic directors from the six remaining members of the WAC (Idaho, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech San Jose State, New Mexico State and Utah State).

Benson said he expects no decisions at the meeting.

On paper, the two schools are actually attractive targets. They're both on the high-population corridor of I-35 in Texas between Dallas and San Antonio, and their enrollment numbers are huge: TSU boasts over 32,000 students, and UTSA has over 28,000 of its own. Big schools with tepid academic standards and huge television markets? Again, on paper, decent fits.

What separates the schools, however, is the ability to invest heavily in athletics. UTSA has recently pushed forward with expansion plans in athletics, and they're starting a new football program next season with Larry Coker at the helm. Most notably, UTSA will be playing in the Alamadome, and having a high-profile stadium ready and waiting will be a huge boost for the young program -- especially if they want to join a conference that isn't, like, the Sun Belt. The real question, of course, is whether the program can be ready for WAC play by 2012, the date Benson set forth for getting back to eight members. Year 2 of play and already in FBS? Best of luck, sirs.

Texas State, meanwhile, is stuck in a 30-year-old, 15,000-seat stadium -- and their paltry $87 million endowment isn't going to be able to make much progress on that front. Sure, it's great that TSU wants to make the move up to I-A, but if they don't make the proper investments in the program and its infrastructure, they'll just be a farther-west version of Florida International or Western Kentucky: teams that jumped up a sub-division for no real reason.

At the end of the day, though, if the WAC says yes to either of these two schools, it won't be doing a whole lot to immediately rectify its new "have-not" status.

Posted on: September 14, 2010 10:54 am
 

WAC to file suit against Fresno St., Nevada, MWC

Posted by Chip Patterson

The WAC already knew they would be losing the Boise State Broncos to the Mountain West Conference, but they were caught off guard to hear before the season that Fresno State and Nevada had also made plans to make the same move.  The conference, which will be left severely crippled with the exit of three teams, has decided to take legal action against the departing universities.  

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Tuesday that the WAC will file a lawsuit against Fresno State, Nevada, and the Mountain West Conference.  
The lawsuit, through the Golden, Colo., office of Bradley, Devitt, Haas & Watkins, claims more than 20 allegations. It was filed in District Court in Jefferson County, Colorado.

A message left with attorney Jon Bradley was not immediately returned.  

The WAC is seeking that Nevada and Fresno State not withdraw from the conference before June 30, 2012, that all defendants (including the Mountain West) be prohibited from scheduling contests that interfere with games to be played against remaining WAC members through 2011-12, and for further relief as the court sees just.

The Gazette-Journal contacted a representative from Nevada who confirmed that the university had received the lawsuit and indicated that they were "disappointed" that the suit was filed before any discussions had taken place.  Nevada and Fresno State accepted the Mountain West Conference's invitation to join the conference on August 13.

One of the fire-starters in this in western realignment was BYU's move to football independence, which will occur officially on June 30, 2011.  When the rumors of BYU's independence began, the Mountain West Conference was quick to act to try and replace them.  The WAC was hoping to at least get BYU's other sports, but the Cougars decided to take a majority of those teams (including basketball) to the West Coast Conference.


Posted on: August 31, 2010 8:49 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2010 2:27 pm
 

BYU going independent in 2011-12; Is this wise?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The news that BYU is leaving the Mountain West and going independent in football next season is, to put it mildly, sort of a big deal, and not just for the Stormin' Mormons themselves. BYU's choice of the WCC for all its other sports is yet another blow to the WAC, who had been rumored to be the destination for BYU's other sports. Sure, WAC football wouldn't have been directly affected, but with the conference needing to replace members Nevada and Fresno State, the presence of a high-profile athletic department like BYU's in the other sports would have made the WAC (and, indirectly, its football contingent) more attractive to potential new schools.

But this news really is about BYU, and mainly their liberation from the non-BCS identity that has haunted them since, well, before the BCS even existed. Bitterness over BYU's shared mythical national championship of 1984--featuring a ludicrously easy schedule and capped by a 7-point win over 6-6 Michigan in the Holiday Bowl--has (not unfairly) lingered to this day. Boise State and Utah have faced similar criticisms recently, and those criticisms have only been muted by--as irony would have it--the BCS system's ability to keep them out of national title contention up until now.

By moving to an independent slate, then, BYU can have greater control over its schedule and, more importantly, its television rights/revenue in a crowded but population-light MWC. Whether going independent will have a positive effect on BYU's actual national standing, however, depends on its ability to cultivate long-term scheduling pacts with high-level competition. Notre Dame, Army, and Navy are obvious candidates for yearly play, and we don't see any reason why they can't make a similar deal with Utah.

But past that, whom? BYU managed to spurn both the MWC and WAC with this move, and we can't imagine many schools in those conferences would be eager to schedule a date with the Cougars in the near future. Meanwhile, the Big Ten schools are already upgrading their schedule difficulty by adding Nebraska to the fold (and going to a 9-game conference slate in 2015), and the SEC is allergic to quality non-conference play. We're not saying BYU can't find 12 opponents a year, but they're not picking from a very big pool--especially when it comes to finding quality competition.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com