College

Saturday, May 05 2012 06:10 PM

Jeff Evans' commentary: CSUB's hopes for a conference take positive turn

BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

The recent upheaval in the Western Athletic Conference has that league reeling. But it also enhances (and hastens) Cal State Bakersfield's chances of landing a conference home.

The general consensus of college media types on the West Coast and in Texas conjectures that the WAC is dead as a football-playing conference.

But it should remain alive in its other 18 sports offerings. And with all the defections, the WAC will need to add new members.

And among those waiting on the sidelines, hungry for an invitation to join: Division I independent CSUB.

CSUB and Utah Valley have been the two universities that have made previous bids to join the WAC only to be turned down.

But now, so many programs have left the WAC, beggars can't be choosy. To survive, the WAC must add to its membership.

CSUB athletic director Jeff Konya said he speaks regularly with Jeff Hurd, the interim WAC commissioner.

Konya said nothing is scheduled for a formal CSUB presentation to the WAC (which Cal State did previously). Konya said he thinks the WAC will focus on the football issue first, and then look at adding new members who don't have football.

The WAC's football prospects are bleak if it hopes to remain a Football Bowl Subdivision league.

On Friday, football-playing San Jose State and Utah State formally accepted offers to jump to the Mountain West Conference.

Earlier in the week, football-playing Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio accepted offers to join Conference USA.

On Wednesday, football-playing Texas State accepted an offer to join the Sun Belt Conference. Multiple media reports have football-playing Texas-Arlington joining the Sun Belt once the school's board of regents approves the move.

Those programs will join their new conferences in the fall of 2013.

In an ironic twist, Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Texas-San Antonio haven't even joined the WAC yet (that happens next fall) and they're already leaving the conference. Those three will play one year in the WAC and then depart for their new conferences.

As of now -- and more changes could follow -- by the fall of 2013, the WAC will be down to two football-playing members: Idaho and New Mexico State. Both of those programs made bids to join the Mountain West but were turned down, according to reports.

The NCAA requires six football-playing members to meet the requirement for Football Bowl Subdivision conferences.

More movement is possible from the WAC as Idaho and New Mexico State will try to find somewhere to continue playing football, whether it's in the Mountain West, Conference USA or Sun Belt, or (in Idaho's case) possibly moving down to the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly called Division I-AA) and hope to join the Big Sky Conference.

As it stands now, the WAC's lineup of schools by the fall of 2013 will be Idaho, New Mexico State, Seattle, Denver and Boise State (it's football program will join the Big East, all other sports will be in the WAC).

The WAC will be forced to add members. It must have six to ensure it retains is status as an automatic qualifying conference for NCAA championships.

The prospects for CSUB and Utah Valley look good. Another media report suggests New Orleans might work into the mix -- that program is returning to the Division I level but has no conference home. One might think Southern Utah (currently in the Summit League) might be courted by the WAC as another non-football member.

Konya said he has been monitoring all of the web sites and rumor discussions on the Web. He said he saw one report that there could be as many as eight prospective universities the WAC could target.

Presumably, some of those could come out of the Big West or Big Sky conferences.

No conference invitation is expected quickly, but CSUB is in its best spot since it began the Division I transition from Div. II with the exploratory year in 2005-06.

Konya noted that the WAC is already familiar with CSUB's athletic program, and the WAC has already accepted the CSUB baseball team as an affiliate member. CSUB baseball's WAC membership begins next season.

Men's soccer, which has been CSUB's most successful sport in recent years, will join the Pac-12 as an affiliate member in 2013.

The WAC does not offer men's soccer as one of its sports.

The WAC, which is in its 50th year, offers eight men's sports and 11 women's sports.

Men's sports are baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field.

Women's sports are basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, volleyball and indoor and outdoor track.

CSUB has five of the men's sports the WAC offers and 10 of the women's sports.

It seems like a good fit, especially with the WAC scrambling. Look for it to happen.

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