Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, September 14, 1999

W E S T E R N _ A T H L E T I C _ C O N F E R E N C E

Western Athletic Conference Logo

WAC awaits
another split

Both Southern Methodist and
Texas Christian are expected to
accept invitations to
the C-USA

By Paul Arnett


The futures of Southern Methodist and Texas Christian in the Western Athletic Conference may become much clearer today.

Conference USA commissioner Mike Slive is expected to give a report to his league's presidents concerning the possibility of expansion as early as the year 2000.

It appears SMU and TCU will not only be extended invitations, but will accept them, leaving the WAC in another state of uncertainty.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson isn't convinced the two Metroplex members will jump ship, but if they do, the WAC could have a plan in place as soon as 30 days.

"In my opinion, TCU and SMU leaving the league isn't a done deal," Benson said during yesterday's weekly conference call. "At this juncture, I still don't know if a decision by the two universities or Conference USA has been made.

"I've been led to believe by all parties that it is still at a stage that has not resulted in anyone having to say yes or no. Whether that happens in the next 24 or 48 hours, it may. But I'm still hoping that TCU and SMU will look at what the WAC has to offer and make a decision the WAC is a better place for them and their athletic programs.

"As far as speculating what would happen if they were to accept an invitation, yes there has been conversation among athletic directors and presidents regarding a course of action we would take. There have been no decisions made regarding replacement schools and there has been no decision regarding the timing of implementing any type of replacement membership. If and when we have to face that question, then I'm sure we'll do it in a fairly short time."

Hawaii president Ken Mortimer is the new WAC chairman. It is believed that he wouldn't want TCU and SMU to play as WAC members next year should they join Conference USA.

"If you're going, then get out," Mortimer said at yesterday's Quarterback Club luncheon. "We'd love to have you stay, but we've got too much work to do."

Schools being considered as possible replacements are independents Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe. Nevada already has been invited from the Big West. The other schools from that conference being considered are North Texas, Arkansas State, Boise State, Idaho, New Mexico State and Utah State.

It's still not clear how many of those schools would be extended invitations should SMU and TCU leave to drop the WAC membership to seven.

Over the past year, Benson has made it clear he wants to bring the league up to 12 teams and compete in two six-team divisions, a plan the presidents shot down in Las Vegas last spring.

"First of all, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves," Benson said. "I've said from the get-go that this thing is not as far down the road as the media has indicated.

"If they do leave, there are several models that will be in our presidents' hands immediately. We will act swiftly if we have to."

If any changes are in order, the WAC would prefer they be done by September of 2000. But that would seem unlikely. First, Conference USA would have to decide how and when SMU and TCU would be included in that league's plans. Benson also said the replacement schools might not be able to get out of their conference commitments by next September.

That leaves SMU and TCU in a sticky position. Say those two schools decide to leave, but Conference USA can't fit them in until 2001. Does the WAC allow them to remain one year as lame ducks or cut them loose and move forward without their involvement?

"I think everyone would probably prefer to do it sooner than later," Benson said. "But there are a lot of factors."
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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