Aug. 19, 2010
LOGAN, Utah - An open letter from Utah State Athletics Director Scott Barnes,
I know you have been closely following Wednesday's news that Nevada and Fresno State announced they are leaving the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) to join the Mountain West Conference (MWC). In a 12-hour period we have gone from looking forward to participating in an expanded WAC with a bright and prosperous future to one of some uncertainty.
Recently, Utah State, under President Stan Albrecht's strong leadership, played a major role in exploring the possibility of bringing BYU into the WAC. As of Tuesday, BYU was on the verge of joining the WAC in all sports but football.
As part of the WAC's conversations with BYU, the current eight conference members (excluding departing Boise State) agreed to remain together as a conference for at least five years. This stability was important to BYU, to other current members, and would have been critical as other expansion options were explored. WAC members signed a letter of commitment that included a $5M membership penalty. When the possibility of BYU leaving became known, MWC leadership contacted three WAC members inquiring about their interest in joining the MWC. Utah State was the first of these three contacts.
At the point in time when Utah State was contacted by the MWC we had a binding agreement with the WAC and were well positioned with nine members, which included BYU. We were simply committed to uphold our agreement with fellow WAC members. We respectfully declined MWC interest and believed all WAC members would remain committed to our agreement.
As the WAC currently stands we are a nine-member conference for the 2010-11 academic year and an eight-member conference in 2011-12 (after Boise State departs). The NCAA minimum to be recognized as an affiliated conference is six members, which the WAC still meets after Nevada and Fresno State leave.
This is a dynamic phase in college athletic conference alignments. We anticipate additional changes in conference membership on a national scale for the foreseeable future.
That said, Utah State Intercollegiate Athletics continues to be in growth mode. We have excellent coaches in place who have recruited and mentored nearly 350 student-athletes who are excelling in competition and in the classroom.
We have created significantly more resources in operating budgets, enhanced facilities, and have developed a strategic plan to guide us in our continued growth and success.
I do not take lightly the negative effect that recent changes in the composition of the WAC will have on us, but these are not insurmountable. We have persevered through many changes in the athletic landscape and are prepared and better equipped to do so again. We will continue to focus on building programs that win championships, graduate talented student-athletes, as well as excite and unify Aggies everywhere.
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