Editor's Note: A couple of thoughts popped into my mind overnight and I've added them to this post.
The WAC's future continues to be in doubt today, as they wait on BYU, and potentially Hawai'i, to determine its next move. Meanwhile, the Mountain West continues to explore its options. More after the jump.
The latest move by the Mountain West appears to be some sort of arrangement with Conference USA, in an attempt to grab a BCS bid..
Reports on what this partnership might be range from a full-blown merger to a single-game playoff for a BCS auto bid to "previously planned 'think tank' session" (that is straight from MWC commisioner Craig Thompson's mouth per SI's Andy Staples).
However, if the MWC decides to go it alone (which may be the best option from a football perspective, as a merger with Conference USA does nothing to help the conference's case for a BCS auto bid, thanks to C-USA's inability to qualifiy a team to a BCS bowl), they'll need to add further members to get to 12 to have a conference championship game.
Since, Utah State has already turned down the conference, and BYU is still pondering whether it will stay or go, the MWC needs to keep shopping, and the WAC is on edge.
Ben Prather, SB Nation's esteemed BCS blogger, put down this possibility as a comment in my post about the WAC's basketball future.
One thought on how close the WAC is to dead.
Suppose the MWC adds Houston and C-USA responds by taking Louisiana Tech to fill the void.
Then the WAC would be dead.
(A Sun Belt or MAC team could be an alternative instead for C-USA, and the WAC would pray that it goes that way)
But it might not take the departure of the Bulldogs to drop the WAC below six members. Today, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News had an interesting post about Hawai'i's football future. Hayes and media on the islands say that school is considering an independent path in football, much like BYU.
From a football perspective, this isn't a bad idea, especially since visiting teams are allowed to play a 13th regular season game when they travel to Honolulu. If the Warriors can get a decent set of TV deals, this could boost their football programs exposure considerably. (Renovating Aloha Stadium would help with that goal too.)
Hayes says that Hawai'i would join the West Coast Conference for basketball and Olympic sports.
Including Hawai'i in a conference for these sports is problematic because a road trip to Honolulu becomes an inconvenience to both teams and schedule makers. Teams travel halfway across the Pacific to play one game, often the only game scheduled for that week. Sure, playing a single game during one week of the season is a good thing, but the travel and jet lag likely reduce any advantage.
Now, I'm warning you that I'm crossing over to the realm of pure speculation with the conclusion of this post.
Given the profile of the WCC, if it invites Hawai'i to join, it may want to consider inviting one of the four island-based members of the Division II Pacific West Conference to consider reclassifying and joining up, especially since the NCAA's moratorium on moves to Division I ends in time for the 2011-12 academic year. This would give the Warriors/Wahine an instant travel partner.
In my mind, the ideal choice would be Chaminade, as they are in Honolulu, a Catholic school (like seven of the eight current WCC members), and nationally known, thanks to the Maui Invitational and their 1982 win over Ralph Sampson and Virginia. BYU-Hawai'i, another Oahu school, would be a close second.
EDIT: Scheduling would still be an issue in a 10-team WCC (the eight current members+2 Hawai'i schools), as there would only be 18 conference games. While that wouldn't be an issue for Hawai'i, who currently plays 16 in the WAC, it would be a potential hurdle for a transitional team. Chaminade would get a boost from the Maui Invitational, and they could add a second exempt event, as the Warriors do through the Rainbow Classic.
One simple solution would for a couple of the teams who play in these exempt events to stick around and play an extra game against the other island school, either before or after the tournament.
Also, don't rule out further expansion for the WCC. Remember that BYU has already been rumored and Seattle University, a former conference member during their first D1 stint, was rebuffed back in 2007 when expansion was off the table. A 12-team WCC, though an unlikely option, could opt for a 20 or 22-game conference slate.
Making a move easier is the fact that the number of sports sponsored by the two conferences is similar. The Pacific West sponsors five for men and six for women, while the WCC features six on the men's side and seven on the women's.
EDIT: The Pacific West sponsors just more than the minimum of sports required for Division II, which is five for each gender. The WCC sponsors less than the Division I minimum, which is seven for each gender, or six for men and eight for women. However, WCC members also compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, a regional super-conference for Olympic sports. Hawai'i competes in men's volleyball in the MPSF,
Of course, this is pure speculation on my part, but if Hawai'i does make a move, it's an interesting idea to consider.