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Star-Bulletin Sports


Friday, May 12, 2000


R A I N B O W _ S P O R T S



UH logo


WAC may
expand to
12 teams

Commissioner Karl Benson
faces opposition from UH,
Fresno State and SMU

By Paul Arnett
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

These days, the talk of the Western Athletic Conference centers on the possibility of expanding to 12 teams for the 2001 season.

After this year, the Big West Conference will no longer be doing business in football, leaving several programs in that league adrift in Division I waters. It's no secret that WAC Commissioner Karl Benson would like to pluck two of those schools from the seas of oblivion.

At this point, it appears Idaho, North Texas and New Mexico State may join the Sun Belt Conference. New Mexico State and Idaho have shown an interest in the WAC, but unless the league presidents act quickly at their meetings next month in California, it's likely neither will be available for long.

"It's in the presidents hands right now," Benson said yesterday.

Benson believes two geographic divisions would help defray travel costs and allow the WAC to have a championship game in football. The WAC will compete as a nine-team league this season and will jump to 10 in 2001.

The schools in the eastern half would be UTEP, Tulsa, Rice, SMU and Louisiana Tech. The western half would have Boise State, San Jose State, Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii. The leading Big West Conference candidates to fill out the bracket to 12 teams are New Mexico State and Utah State.

For expansion to take place, Benson would need 75 percent of the schools to vote yes. At this point, he doesn't have the votes. One of the opponents is University of Hawaii President Kenneth Mortimer. Fresno State and SMU are also against expansion.

Rumors still abound that Fresno State would like to join the Mountain West Conference, but Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry doesn't see that happening any time soon.

"I think our league is very comfortable right now with eight teams,'' DeBerry said when he was in Hawaii to coach in the Hula Bowl.



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