Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, October 3, 2000

H A W A I I _ C O L L E G E _ S P O R T S

PacWest schools
to make best
of breakup

BYU-Hawaii, Chaminade,
Hawaii-Hilo and Hawaii
Pacific staying in
spurned conference

By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Some say that breaking up is hard to do, but not for mainland teams in the same athletic conferences as Hawaii universities.

Two years after the University of Hawaii and the Western Athletic Conference were notified of a mass and unified exodus of schools to what eventually became the Mountain West, Hawaii's four NCAA Division II schools learned a that their Pacific West Conference also is breaking up.

Brigham Young-Hawaii, Chaminade, Hawaii-Hilo and Hawaii Pacific were notified that 10 schools are planning to leave the 16-team conference after this year, leaving only them, Montana State-Billings and Western New Mexico in the PacWest.

Chaminade has been a member since 1991, Hawaii-Hilo from 1993, with BYUH and HPU joining in 1998. With its 16 members since 1999, the PacWest is the largest Division II conference. The schools leaving are Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks, Central Washington, Humboldt State, Northwest Nazarene, St. Martin's, Seattle, Seattle Pacific, Western Oregon and Western Washington.

The maneuverings of the departing schools before the announcement and the circumstances surrounding the change are eerily similar to that experienced by UH and the WAC. Administrators at the six remaining schools and even PacWest officials were not aware of the secession until a letter was faxed to them last Monday from Western Washington president Karen Morris announcing the move on behalf of the 10 departing schools. The only reasons given then and the only reasons given now are the excessive travel distances and costs associated with the current structure.

"The similarities between the breakups are striking," BYUH athletic director Randy Day said. "The six remaining schools were left out of what obviously were some behind-the-scenes discussions and even the PacWest commissioner and the other conference officials were completely surprised by the announcement."

Unlike UH, however, the four local small colleges comprise a block of solidarity and a significant foundation for any conference setup. They, along with the two remaining schools from the mainland, used this to present a unified front of their own at a meeting of all 16 athletic directors and school and conference officials yesterday in Seattle.

The proposal tendered by the seceding schools called for dissolution of the PacWest upon their departure on July 1 of next year. This would have meant losses of the conference name, all automatic bids to NCAA postseason tournaments and enhancement money that the NCAA doles out based on how each conference performs in these tournaments. Before the meeting, however, the presidents of the six remaining schools came up with a counterproposal that allowed for the 10 schools to withdraw without dissolving the conference.

The new proposal allowed for the six remaining schools and conference officials to maintain the existence of the PacWest with all assets and liabilities, while also providing for the withdrawal of the 10 others without penalty in the form of fines authorized by conference bylaws. The new proposal passed unanimously at the meeting and it will become effective July 1, 2001, pending the expected ratification of the agreement by the PacWest executive council within the next two days.

"Obviously there are some feelings," Day said. "But I think that everyone parted about as amicably as one could expect. The meeting was cordial and professional, but there was some obvious disappointment that it came to this point.

"Everyone left with a general feeling that they got what they wanted, and I think the remaining schools and the PacWest will eventually benefit and prosper from the split."

The athletic directors from the other Hawaii schools echoed Day's sentiments in separate phone interviews. Said Chaminade's Aaron Griess:

"This is going to be real positive for the Hawaii schools and good for the conference in general. Instead of competing with 15 other teams for a national bid, now there will be just five. Just by the numbers, we can see the benefit for the Hawaii schools and our fans because there will be a far greater chance for a Hawaii team to be competing for a national championship."

"We wanted to keep our conference name, our bids and our money, and we got all three," HPU's Tony Sellitto said. "The conference was too far-flung geographically to begin with. Six teams is enough and we shouldn't make it too far-flung should we consider expansion again in the future."

Discussions on potential expansion have been tabled for now and most likely for the near future. The 10 departing schools plan to stick together to form an as-of-yet unnamed conference. There are no other unaffiliated Division II schools remaining in the West Region. Plus, the NCAA has an association-wide, two-year moratorium on schools moving up a division, preventing interested Division III and NAIA schools from making a bid for PacWest membership for the time being.

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin