USU JOINS THE WAC

So how much did we pay to get into the WAC? What about the MWC predition? What if SMU, Rice and Tulsa do not get the official C-USA invite? It's all here!

USU gets wish: an invitation to join WAC Aggies excited to be in league based in West When Utah State University president Kermit L. Hall took office 2 1/2 years ago, one of his first endeavors was to visit the presidents of the Western Athletic Conference to lay the groundwork for future dealings. Thursday, with what he called a lot of hard work, luck and fate, those visits paid off. By a unanimous 10-0 vote from the WAC board of directors, Utah State University and New Mexico State University were announced Thursday as the newest members of the conference by commissioner Karl Benson. "This is obviously a wonderful day for Utah State University," athletic director Rance Pugmire said. "The response, as you can expect, has been one of excitement and enthusiasm. We're thrilled and excited for our coaches who now have an opportunity to develop and continue some existing Western rivalries. It certainly helps us in an area in which we recruit." Both of the Sun Belt Conference schools were extended official invitations Thursday morning, and both accepted by noon. The two schools will officially join on July 5, 2005. They will join Boise State, San Jose State, Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii, UTEP and Louisiana Tech in the nine-team conference. "Bringing New Mexico State and Utah State in adds a lot more "Western" to the Western Athletic Conference," Hall said. Utah State men's basketball coach Stew Morrill agreed. "I couldn't be happier that we have found a "home" in the West," he said. Benson said the decision to add the two schools was simple. "New Mexico State and Utah State are natural fits both academically and athletically," Benson said. "I appreciate very much the fact that both schools have been patient, building their respective programs, while at the same time investing in the future throughout the years they have waited to join the WAC." With last week's announcement by Tulsa, Rice and Southern Methodist to bolt from the WAC to Conference-USA reopened the door for the two schools to join the WAC. Benson originally thought he would take 30 to 60 days before making any decisions, but the decision came quicker than expected because of the sense it made to add Utah State and New Mexico State. Both schools were on the WAC's list in 2000 when it expanded, so the WAC was already familiar with each. "The Western Athletic Conference is something that we have strived for for more than 30 years," Utah State football coach Mick Dennehy said. "The regionality makes sense for us as an athletic program, but our fans and supporters need, and look forward to this competition." Although Tulsa, Rice and SMU haven't been officially accepted into C-USA, Utah State's and New Mexico State's entrance into the WAC is not contingent of C-USA's approval of those schools. Terms of Utah State's financial responsibility to join the WAC were not disclosed, but Hall said no state-funded dollars would be used for the fee. Recent rumors have circulated that the Mountain West Conference would like to add Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii did throw up a red flag for Hall and Pugmire. If they were to happen, Utah State could find itself as an I-A independent again, but Hall and Pugmire said it was a gamble they had to take. "It would strike me that it would be quite remarkable if four teams left the WAC to go to the Mountain West Conference," Hall said. "It's a simple business decision. There are some risks to take playing as an independent. There is a risk you take when you go to the Sun Belt. There's a risk to take now. The only way you get better is to take some risks. We're taking a little bit of a risk but I have enormous confidence in the WAC brand and the leadership of Karl Benson," Hall said. The decision by Utah State and New Mexico State to leave the Sun Belt Conference didn't come as a surprise to commissioner Wright Waters. "We didn't know when it would happen, but we knew it would happen," Waters said. "We'll miss them. They're great institutions. They're outstanding programs."

Ustate Aggies Top Stories