WAC defections have UH Exploring options
MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - It is time to look out for number one. That was the message coming out of Manoa Thursday, one day after Fresno State and Nevada rocked the Western Athletic Conference by announcing their intentions to leave the WAC and join the Mountain West Conference.
The University of Hawaii is considering several options including leaving the conference and going independent.
WAC Commissioner Karl Benson lashed out at Nevada and Fresno State calling their decision to leave selfish.
"In a 12 hour period the WAC went from having a secure and prosperous future to once again not knowing what the future will hold," Benson said.
Benson says the WAC will search for new members. It would like at least two more.
"We will begin immediately a process to target prospective members to the WAC that will include both current FBS 1A schools as well as the FBS 1AA schools that have expressed an interest," Benson said.
Rumors are swirling about who those schools may be, but no one at the WAC office or at UH is saying.
"I don't really want to venture any comment because there's about eight schools that are being looked at and I'm pretty sure there will be different opinions among the six remaining WAC schools on who might be best," said Jim Donovan, Athletics Director at UH
Donovan and UH Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw participated in a conference call Thursday morning with Benson and administrators from the other five remaining WAC universities.
"What I talked to Virginia about after the conference calls this morning is that we, the University of Hawaii, need to decide what's best for us. And there's some logical options out there," Donovan told Hawaii News Now.
"We need to decide what's out first choice and our second choice and start working those options. And if that's being a part of the WAC, then that's what we'll do. If it's being independent in football and being in the WAC in our other sports, or moving to another conference, then that's what we need to do," Donovan said.
Some schools have thrived as independents, but it would not be easy for Hawaii.
As an independent UH might have to pay other schools to travel to the islands for football games. And, and as a perceived soft homecoming opponent, the Warriors could end up playing more road games than it would like against national powers.
"I believe it would be challenging, but not impossible at all. The other sports, that gets ... that can be more problematic," Donovan said.
"I just know that if everybody will just take a deep breath and relax, this thing will clear up," former Hawaii football coach Dick Tomey told Hawaii News Now.
Tomey says this "problematic" situation can have a happy ending if the people of Hawaii pull together and support UH athletics.
"People just need to have confidence in the leadership and decide that this island nation, this island state, is going to be special and that nothing is going to get in the way," Tomey said.
Nevada and Fresno State hope to be competing in the Mountain West Conference as soon as the 2011 academic / athletic year. But according to Benson any team that wanted to leave the WAC and play in another conference in 2011 needed to announced its intention to leave by July 1. Both Nevada and Fresno missed that deadline, so according to Benson, they have got to stay in the WAC through the 2011-2012 athletic calendar.
Benson said each university will have to pay the WAC a $5 million dollar exit fee.