Conference Expansion Renews: UT Arlington Accepts WAC Invitation, Will Join Division I-A In 2012

The grisly spectacle that is WACspansion brings back everybody's favorite tales of intrigue from the summer of 2010. Hawaii's only moving to the Mountain West for love, did you know?

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UT Arlington Accepts WAC Invitation, Will Level Up In 2012

What if Karl Benson threw a party and nobody came? Floating in the detritus of the Friday afternoon bad news dump, that time after 3:30 p.m. reserved for the most unsavory of PR releases, came the news that UT Arlington will accept an invitation to mount up with the WAC for the 2012-2013 athletic year. Doggedly cheerful quotes from the conference commish's press release follow!

We are very pleased to add UT-Arlington as the 10th member of the WAC for 2012," Benson said. "Besides bringing top level academics to the league, the addition will provide a geographical balance to the WAC and help in the creation of travel partners as we attempt to further expand to two six-team divisions in the future."

"UT-Arlington and the Dallas-Fort Worth region also bring in another top-20 media market to go along with the recent additions of Seattle and Denver. The addition will significantly help the WAC in securing more lucrative television rights fees in the future," Benson said.

UT Arlington does not field a football program, and finished next to last in Southland West men's basketball in 2010. 

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WAC Expansion: Conference Extends 2012 Invitation To UT Arlington

Not satisfied with welcoming one new member who'll be fielding its first-ever varsity football program in 2011, one that can't win in AA ball, and two more schools primarily in play for their basketball teams, the WAC has officially invited the University of Texas at Arlington to join the ranks of Division I-A, welcoming to a wannabe AQ BCS conference an institution that doesn't play football and will apparently not be bound to try:

Should the University of Texas System board of regents approve the recommendation join the WAC, UT Arlington will join the conference beginningJuly 1, 2012, in all sports but football. The agenda document notes that "the WAC is a football bowl subdivision conference where football is important, but UT Arlington’s invitation is not conditioned on starting a football program."

The Mavericks, who finished second from the bottom of the Southland West last season in men's basketball, would join hoops members Denver and Seattle, UT San Antonio in year one of gridiron play under Larry Coker (hey, Larry Coker!), and Texas State, which boasts a nonwinning Southland tradition in an entirely different sport, as WACspansion teams in 2012. This move would follow the departure of Boise State to the Mountain West, Utah to the Pac-12, and BYU's arrival in the WAC as a basketball member, and coincide with HawaiiFresno State, and Nevada bolting to the Mountain West and TCU decamping for the Big East. Got all that? New conference crest reads, in Latin: "You can get there from here."

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WAC To Announce Three New Member Schools Today

The WACspansion saga that's decidedly not taken the country by storm is expected to reach its denouement this afternoon, when commissioner Karl Benson has scheduled a 5 p.m. EST teleconference to announce the conference's intention to add three new member schools to its ranks: the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, the Texas State Bobcats, and the University of Denver Pioneers. The two Texas schools will compete in all sports, while Denver will serve as a conference member in everything but football.

And how will these three programs fare in replacing BCS top-five regular Boise State, offensive powerhouse Nevada, and Fresno State, which, well, Fresno's probably nice at some point during the year, just never when we've been there?

UTSA is starting a football program that will begin play in 2011. Former Miami coach Larry Coker is the Roadrunners' coach.

Texas State plays in the Southland Conference in the Championship Subdivision of Division I, but has been exploring the possibility of moving up to FBS. The Bobcats are 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the Southland Conference this season.

Denver competes in the Sun Belt in most sports and does not have a football team.

To dull the gleaming edge of victory just a trifle more, presumed fourth newcomer program Montana (the best-positioned of any of the four programs to actually compete at the I-A level in football) has just announced it intends to remain with the Big Sky conference, meaning the WAC will likely extend a non-football membership invitation to the University of Seattle:

President Royce Engstrom said in a release Thursday that it was a complex decision. But, he adds, the better course for the school is to stay with the conference it helped establish in 1963.

This, of course, is code for "We're waiting for the inevitable invitation from the Big 12 and don't want to have to change our stationery more than once."

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Report: WAC Expected To Add Four Teams

The WAC is set to add programs to replace Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State, all of whom are heading to the Mountain West. The San Marcos (Texas) Daily Record is reporting that the WAC is going be adding four new teams:

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson has stated he'd like the conference to get back to having at least eight football-playing members and with the immediate addition of Texas State and UTSA, it would bring the WAC to eight. When Montana finally gets around to declaring itself ready, it would bring that total to a favorable nine.

"It's pretty obvious at this point," WAC Senior Associate Commissioner Jeff Hurd said. "You know who the football playing schools are and you know who the non-football playing schools are. I don't know if you can say it's automatic but if you're looking at a probability, it's pretty high."

Yet according to sources close to the situation - since Montana is in currently in a transition mode - Texas State and UTSA will be invited into the conference for all sports while Denver and Seattle will join for all but football.

This move is all about keeping the WAC together as a football conference, because by losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, they would have been down to only six schools, two fewer than the NCAA requirement.

This should close the door on expansion for 2010, unless the Big East is serious about adding TCU.

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Now Applying To The WAC: Denver, Montana, Seattle, Texas State, UT-San Antonio

As previously speculated in this space, two teams from Texas have interest in joining the depleted WAC. Texas State and UT-San Antonio, along with Denver, Montana, and Seattle, were scheduled to meet with the conference membership committee in Dallas today and present their cases for a bump up to Division I-A:

Among the items schools are expected to discuss are budgets, current rosters, the institution in general, sponsorship, institutional commitment and how their individual markets would be attractive to the WAC.

Texas State, UT-San Antonio and Montana will make presentations as potential football-playing members. Benson said he hopes to have a minimum of eight football-playing schools prior to the 2012 season.

Denver and Seattle are applying as basketball members; if the idea of UT-San Antonio joining I-A football sounds unfamiliar, it's because they won't even officially launch their program until 2011. And if you're wondering what "attractive markets" and "Montana" have to do with one another, New Mexico State AD McKinley Boston has some thoughts that perfectly encapsulate the current state of the WAC:

I like Montana's footprint in terms of its location in the west. It has a football brand, even though it's at the 1-AA level, but it wouldn't take long for people to adjust to it.

Phrasing is king: It wouldn't take long for WAC audiences to adjust to I-AA football? What a tragic commentary on our times.

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