While it can look back and claim a great deal of success, including a National Champion in 1984 (Brigham Young University), it also must accept the fact that under recently developed NCAA Division I-A football proposals (specifically attendance), it's very existence is in jeopardy.
Schools like San Jose State University have difficulty attracting anywhere near the suggested 15,000 butts in seats and are fighting in a market that is saturated with higher profile college football selections.
The bad news has been recently compounded by the Idaho Legislature, which is facing a budget crunch that could force a choice between education and athletics.
The Western Athletic Conference is also by far the most geographically diverse conference in all of college football, a fact that causes scheduling and travel concerns for its participants and fans.
So that's the bad news.
The good news was on the field in 2001 and what appears to be coming in 2002.
The good news for the WAC was Fresno State beating Big 10 powerhouse Wisconsin in Madison, WI and Big 12 Champion Colorado in Boulder, CO.
The good news was Hawaii defeating BCS-contender Brigham Young University in front of a record-setting ESPN2 television audience. The good news was, among others, David Carr and Ashley Lelie.
The good news is that even though those two superstars have gone on to become 1st Round picks in the NFL, talent is still abound and the conference has an additional bowl game (Hawaii Bowl) to showcase that talent.
While the WAC is definitely top heavy and very vulnerable to losing a Fresno State or Hawaii to the more-acclaimed Mountain West, the good news is that ESPN and college football fans around the country are starting to take notice again to what's happening in the WAC.
Aug 31 Idaho
Sept 7 @ Arkansas
Sept 14 @ Wyoming
Sept 28 Utah State
Oct 5 Hawaii
Oct 12 @ Tulsa
Oct 18 Fresno State
Oct 26 @ San Jose State
Nov 2 @ UTEP
Nov 9 Rice
Nov 16 Louisiana Tech
Nov 23 @ Nevada
Head Coach: Don Hawkins
2001 Record: 8-4
Offensive Starters Returning--7
Defensive Starters Returning--7
Boise State has a solid program that probably doesn't get enough publicity due to geographic location and a high amount of competition in the inner-mountain region (BYU, Utah, Washington State, etc.).
The 2002 Broncos feature Junior Ryan Dinwiddle who threw for 3043 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2001 and is being promoted for post-season awards this year.
At Running Back, Brock Forsey returns after a sophomore campaign in which the Meridian, ID native rushed for over 1000 yards. Defense returns 7 starters from a unit that ranked near the top of the WAC in 2001. Most notable is Quintin Mikell, a senior safety on the Boise State University football team, who has been picked by The Sporting News as the WAC Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year.
The product of Willamette High School in Eugene, Oregon, Mikkel led Boise State in tackles the past two years, and has made a total of 304 career tackles. Included among those career tackles are 24 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, with seven of those quarterback sacks.
Bronco Stadium is sometimes called the "smurf turf" because of its unique blue artificial surface. The question in 2002 is whether Don Hawkins will resemble the wise and successful Papa Smurf or whether if he'll resemble Gargamel in cursing the achievements of others at the exception of the Broncos.
With Hawaii, Fresno State, and Louisiana Tech coming to Boise, the real possibility is that Boise State will take the WAC. SpartanThunder.com predicts the Broncos will be playing in the Humanitarian Bowl on New Year's Eve.
That's the smurfin' truth.
Aug 23 @ Wisconsin
Aug 29 San Diego State
Sept 7 @ Oregon
Sept 14 @ Oregon State
Sept 28 @ Rice
Oct 4 Colorado State
Oct 12 SMU
Oct 18 @ Boise State
Oct 25 Hawaii
Nov 9 Tulsa
Nov 16 Nevada
Nov 23 @ San Jose State
Dec 5 Louisiana Tech (@ Shreveport, LA)
Head Coach: Pat Hill
2001 Record: 11-3
Offense Starters Returning--7
Defense Starters Returning--7
California State University at Fresno…It's always been a little curious to me why the Dawgs cannot schedule home and home schedules with the bigger schools, especially when the dawgs sell out every game at home!
Anyway, maybe that's a question best answered by someone with a better understanding of the "dynamics" of that institution. Fresno is in the Central Valley, which is the agricultural base of California.
Much like the University of Iowa in the 1980s, Pat Hill is making attempts to show pride in that heritage. While Iowa had ANF (America Needs Farmers) stickers, the Bulldogs sport CV (Central Valley) ones.
The premise is pretty much the same.
The good news is that it seems to be working.
Pat Hill has evoked interest in the program and they are paving a path to becoming a year-in, year-out Top 25 contender. The presence of a solid JUCO program in the city (Fresno CC) also helps.
Lots of talent graduated from the 2001 squad, including #1 Draft Choice David Carr. This year's top Bulldog award candidate is Bernard Berrian, whom Mel Kiper of ESPN has listed amongst potential April 2003 First Round picks.
QB is always solid at a school that's produced players like Trent Dilfer and David Carr. Defense must replace NFL draft pick Alan Harper, who was the heart and soul of the Bulldog defense.
Meanwhile, in the pass happy WAC, Fresno State returns 2 strong Defensive Backs in Kendall Edwards and Bryce McGill. If needed, FSU also has a player whom some have rated the best 2002 recruit in the WAC in Vincent Mays of Rancho Cordova.
Schedule is difficult, but that's pretty much how Pat Hill likes it. Despite some early losses out-of-conference, expect continued domination in the WAC.
Aug 31 Eastern Illinois
Sept 6 @ BYU
Sept 21 @ UTEP
Sept 28 SMU
Oct 5 @ Boise State
Oct 12 Nevada
Oct 19 Tulsa
Oct 25 @ Fresno State
Nov 2 San Jose State
Nov 16 @ Rice
Nov 23 Cincinnati
Nov 30 Alabama
Dec 7 San Diego State
Conference DNP—-Louisiana Tech
Head Coach: June Jones
2001 Record: 9-3
Offense Starters Returning--6
Defense Starters Returning--8
Hawaii may be one of the least known hotbeds of High School football talent. If one examines the rosters of top programs like Nebraska, it's not uncommon to find a Hawaiian in the mix.
One of June Jones' jobs is to keep that talent on the islands. With his pedigree and high-flying run-and-shoot offense, that task seems to be happening. Next issue is talent development. That also appears to be a strength of the June Jones regime as a squad that didn't win a game before his arrival won the WAC in year 1.
Last year, Hawaii finished 9-3 including a blowout win over Mountain West Champion BYU.
Timmy Chang returns at QB replacing Nick Rolovich from CCSF (Community College San Francisco). As it turns out, that may be a blessing in disguise as the Rainbows expect big things out of Mr. Chang.
At WR, Hawaii returns Tim Dwight-like sophomore Chris Owens. Chris should provide excitement at both WR and on punt-return. In the end analysis, the best thing Hawaii has going for it is June Jones.
The bows really lucked out when they were able to convince the former NFL Head Coach to move back to the college game and with Coach Jones' dedication to making Hawaii into a premier program and his connections to the NFL (which attracts recruits), the future looks really bright.
A winning record and bowl game is expected. Hawaii Bowl on Christmas day is what we predict here at SpartanThunder.com.
Aug 31 Oklahoma State (@ Shreveport, LA)
Sept 7 @ Clemson
Sept 14 Tulsa
Sept 21 @ Penn State
Sept 28 @ Texas A&M
Oct 5 @ Rice
Oct 19 @ SMU
Oct 26 Nevada
Nov 2 Fresno State (@ Shreveport, LA)
Nov 9 @ San Jose State
Nov 16 @ Boise State
Nov 23 UTEP
Head Coach: Jack Bicknell
2001 Record: 7-5
Offense Starters Returning--8
Defense Starters Returning--7
The biggest problem facing Louisiana Tech before entering the WAC was getting a bowl bid when they had a good team. Last year they got that bowl bid and this year they just may do it again.
On offense, the team is led by 2001 2nd Team All WAC QB Luke McCown who threw for 3,665 yards and rushed for 356 yards last year.
On defense, Louisiana Tech will depend upon a very good LB corps which returns all it's starters from 2001 and also has a transfer originally from the Texas Longhorns (Adam McConathy) joining the team this fall.
Who was the WAC champion in 2001? Ask 100 random college football fans and you'll maybe get 20 of them to say "Louisiana Tech."
Meanwhile, it's the facts. The Bulldogs were the undisputed, untied, lone champion of the conference last year. With 17 total starters returning, a repeat isn't out of the realm of possibility.
The key will be their ability to maintain health and momentum during an opening streak that includes the likes of Clemson, Penn State, and Texas A&M (all on the road).
In conference, big games against Fresno State and at Boise highlight the schedule. The absence of Hawaii should help the Bulldogs in regards to both travel inconvenience and momentum.
A bowl game is a definite possibility (even if they don't finish in the top 3 of the WAC due to the real possibility that another conference will not meet their quota). For now, we'll pick 7-5.
Two weeks before kick-off, we will review Nevada, SMU, and Rice. And one week before kick off we will review Tulsa, UTEP, and SJSU!