Another round of conference realignment has left the venerable Western Athletic Conference reeling, with possibly just two of its current members remaining in 2013.
That shakeup, however, hasn't dampened the excitement of Seattle University to join the conference on July 1, according to Redhawks athletic director Bill Hogan.
Seattle U was invited last year to join the WAC in 17 of its 20 sports, which is vital to its flagship sport of men's basketball. Seattle U needed a conference to play in to have a chance at an NCAA tournament bid, eligible now beginning with the 2012-13 season.
"We're really enthused about joining the WAC and getting our first season under our belt and being eligible for conference championships and NCAA tournament bids," Hogan said Tuesday. "So that's kind of our focus."
The WAC had already lost Boise State and Fresno State when it invited Seattle and Denver as non-football playing members in July.
At that time, the WAC expected to have at least a nine-school lineup beginning with the 2012-13 academic year. University of Texas at Arlington was added later as a 10th member beginning in 2012-13. The additions of Seattle U, Denver and UT-Arlington helped offset the losses of Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii to the Mountain West.
But reports have surfaced in the past week of six schools leaving this year or next for other conferences, including longtime members Utah State and San Jose State to the Mountain West and Louisiana Tech to Conference USA. Three schools that had yet to join the conference are also expected to now go elsewhere -- Texas State and UT-Arlington to the Sun Belt and University of Texas-San Antonio to Conference USA.
That would leave just Idaho and New Mexico State as football-playing members, leaving the future of that sport and the WAC uncertain.
For basketball, the WAC would have five schools remaining -- Idaho, New Mexico State, Seattle U, Denver and Boise State, which announced late last year it would rejoin the WAC in sports other than football. The Broncos will play football in the Big East.
WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd released a statement Tuesday saying the conference will survive.
"The Western Athletic Conference board of directors is well aware of the changing landscape in Division I athletics and has been in discussion about it for the last several weeks," the statement read. "Further, it continues to evaluate the impact upon the WAC and is closely engaged in evaluating its membership options. It will not speculate relative to those options, but it has confidence that the WAC will maintain its more than 50-year history as a pre-eminent Division I conference."
Conferences need seven members to be "automatic qualifying" conferences, meaning their tournament champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament.
Hogan said the WAC having the needed number of basketball-playing members is "not an issue. ... There's a lot of interest in the WAC. It's a changing landscape out there and in two, three years, who knows what it will look like."
What he said he does know is that Seattle U plans to be a part of it.
"We are thrilled to be involved and looking forward to it," he said.
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