There is shaping up to be a lot of change in Seattle University’s new conference.
There are going to be quite a few new teams, and there are going to be a few holdovers. So. First, the holdovers. New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State are the five old-guard schools of the WAC that will remain next year.
There’s the private-school guard, the new schools that on first glance seem like they’d better belong in a different conference – Denver and Seattle.
Rounding out the new five are the Texas Schools – UT Arlington, UT San Antonio and Texas State. The three don’t offer historically powerful athletics programs (although UTSA is the cream of the Southland conference this year), but they do offer very small footholds in very nice media markets.
Joining the conference in all sports except football in two years, for some reason, is Boise State. The addition doesn’t add a needed football-playing school and it doesn’t add a big market, and Boise State sure isn’t being added for its strong academic reputation, so it seems to be rather pointless. But at least it’s a “name” school in a conference rapidly becoming devoid of them.
At this point, here are the football schools in the new conference – the five ‘original’ WAC schools, Texas State, and UT San Antonio. There have been rumblings of UT Arlington starting a football program, but that would have to be a few years away, at least. The WAC needs to get back to 8 football schools, and it needs to do it fast.
How is this going to happen? The conference needs to add football-playing schools that would be willing to move to the WAC and that are geographically fitting. Enter Sacramento State or Portland State. Both fit the bill. Crucially, both are in large media markets currently without a top-flight football program at any level (although in both there are solid programs an hour or two away).
Let’s take Sacramento State as an example. They would seem to be the best fit, as they are a large university that is currently a geographic outcast in the Big Sky. The Hornets would provide a close travel partner for San Jose State. That would push the conference to this for all sports, not including football:
Northwest: Seattle/Idaho, Boise State/Utah State, Sacramento State/San Jose State
Southeast: Denver/New Mexico State, UT San Antonio/Texas State, Louisiana Tech/UT Arlington
Utah State has been making noises about leaving for the Mountain West, as well, and if the Mountain West actually agrees to this eventually, Portland State would be a nice replacement. The Vikings have less of a history of athletic success, but more potential going forward. They play in shiny new remodeled PGE Park, in a large city with no other football programs. And they’d be a perfect travel partner for Seattle, allowing Idaho and Boise to be natural and logical travel partners themselves.
So the future isn’t all bad. It’s not GREAT, but it’s not bad. The conference could easily become a solidly-balanced one, with a few strong programs, a diverse geographical coverage without making travel too difficult, and a presence in many strong media markets. And Seattle will be a part of it. It could certainly be worse.