Shakeout could
benefit WAC

Benson says not to panic
over speculation that Miami
will leave the Big East

Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson said yesterday he is closely monitoring events involving the possible move of Miami from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It's possible a shakeup of those leagues could affect the WAC eventually, he said.

But Benson also said there is no reason for the WAC's 10 schools, including Hawaii, to panic. He does plan on a conference call to discuss the situation with the league's school presidents, but doesn't consider it an emergency situation.

"Don't make much out of that," Benson said from Phoenix, where he is at annual meetings with the WAC's football coaches and athletic directors. "Obviously we're tracking the whole deal with the ACC and we want to make sure our board is aware of things that are going on."

If the Big East loses flagship football program Miami, other schools might want to leave that conference. That could start a chain of events that would change the entire landscape of college sports conference affiliation. Exactly how it would affect the WAC is impossible to predict.

Benson was asked if the league's existence could be in jeopardy.

"Absolutely not," he said. "There are scenarios where we benefit from a shakeout. It's way too soon to get specific, but this could provide some positive outcomes for us."

Benson said the conference could end up adding teams if other conferences become less attractive to members or cease to exist.

He said the league has considered increasing to 12 schools in the past, but has waited for schools it wants to be available. Benson declined to say which schools those might be.

"There could be a pool of available teams," Benson said. "We would make sure we get something that adds value to the WAC."

It is also possible the WAC could end up looking for schools to replace one or more that leave the conference.

Even before the ACC and Big East situation arose, speculation was rampant that WAC schools Hawaii, Fresno State, and, of late, Boise State and/or Nevada could be offered membership in the Mountain West.

The eight teams comprising the Mountain West were members of a 16-team WAC before they left in 1999 to form their own league.


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