The University of Idaho has finally realized that being in an athletic conference with only 5 teams and only 1 other football team is not really in their best interest. So yesterday, Idaho decided that they would become a member of the Big Sky Conference and become a football independent. If anybody is shocked that they will no longer be in the same conference as New Mexico State and worried about lost revenue, don’t be, because it was not like they were making any money being in the WAC, or for that matter being in the Kibbie Dome.
The WAC was the victim of their own success on the field and their lack of prestige as a conference. In the beginning BYU made the conference somewhat relevant, especially since BYU is the only school to have ever won a national championship to not have been a member of one of the major conferences. Later, much later, Boise State picked up the slack and rocketed the conference to being a prominent BCS buster conference. The sad thing is that Boise State, Nevada, and Hawaii simply out grew the conference. They needed tougher competition if they wanted to maintain their respective success rates and the WAC was always viewed as a steeping stone conference.
There were of course other reasons for the collaps of the conference. One of the most prominent reasons was geography. During the WAC’s peak membership of 16 football schools, the conference had schools ranging all the way from Louisiana and Texas to the remote island state of Hawaii. That largeness opened the door for the creation of Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference. Teams like the University of Houston, Tulsa, BYU, Air Force, and Colorado State didn’t want to criss cross the country simply to play a football game against “juggernaut” programs like San Jose State, Idaho, and UTEP. It simply didn’t add up because they wanted to play teams that were in their relative geographical area.
Additionally the success enjoyed by teams like BYU and Boise State were always directly attributed to the programs themselves and didn’t ever translate into a greater overall conference prestige. Teams that enjoyed success in the WAC were always viewed as achieving greatness despite their conference affiliation, as though being in the WAC was a negative. The WAC was never able to “grow” with its member schools and as a result programs like Boise State simply got too large and once any of the members of the WAC were given offers to join a conference with either more prestige or not as geographically schizophrenic those teams simply left.
I think we can all agree that a conference can be considered dead if they lose teams to the Sun Belt Conference and if they only have one remaining football team in the conference. The WAC’s current existence as a conference as a whole is in extreme doubt because the conference champion in basketball is not going to be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tournament. If the conference can be compared to a brain dead patient that is being “kept alive” by a machine, it is time to pull the plug because the conference is already dead.,no sense in pretending otherwise.
Unlike the end of the Southwest Conference, nobody will ever look fondly at the WAC, it will be forgotten with the only reminder that the conference ever existed being the creation of the Fiesta Bowl. The WAC will be remembered as the Rodney Dangerfield of athletic conferences.