Nov. 11, 2010
LOGAN, Utah -
The Western Athletic Conference announced Thursday that invitations for membership have been issued to and accepted by the University of Denver, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas State University to join the conference effective July 1, 2012.
The announcement was made by the chair of the WAC Board of Directors and Utah State University President Stan L. Albrecht and WAC Commissioner Karl Benson after the board unanimously voted to issue the invitations earlier this week.
"The Board of Directors is extremely dedicated to the long-term stability and growth of the Western Athletic Conference," said Albrecht. "The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University and the University of Denver are three very strong institutions, both in their commitment to building athletic excellence and their commitment to academics. We believe that all three will help us in our quest to make the WAC one of the outstanding athletic conferences in the country."
"The addition of these three schools clearly sends a message that the WAC and its member schools are prepared to move forward to build a `new' WAC," said Benson. "And as the WAC prepares to begin its next 50 years as an athletic conference, I am confident that these three new members along with the six other WAC schools will continue to compete at the highest level of the NCAA."
Benson added that the WAC will continue to explore the possibility of adding additional members to the league.
"The addition of Denver, UTSA and Texas State will assist in bringing both stability and value to the WAC in future years," said Utah State Athletics Director Scott Barnes. "These programs have the right plan and have committed resources in place to back them up and be successful in the WAC. Collectively, their academic and athletic success is impressive. We will celebrate the addition of these schools, while keeping an eye on other potential opportunities for the WAC moving forward."
The two Texas schools are currently members of the Southland Conference and will be making the move up from the Football Championship Subdivison (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2012. Denver becomes the first full member in WAC history to join the league without a football program. The additions mean that for the 2012-13 season, the WAC will consist of nine full-time members, eight of which will play football.
Denver, currently a member of the Sun Belt Conference, is a private institution with an enrollment of 11,644 and is located nine miles northwest of the WAC's headquarters. The Pioneers sponsor 17 sports and have won 28 national championships in their history. The men and women's basketball teams play in the 7,200-seat Magness Arena, part of the Daniel L. Ritchie Center. Last year's men's basketball team won 19 games, its third-straight year of improving its number of wins.
UTSA, founded in 1969, has an enrollment of more than 30,000 students on its three campuses (Main, Downtown and Institute of Texan Cultures). The University has grown quickly in its relatively short history, and it has plans for $265 million in construction over the next three years. The Roadrunners have won 48 Southland Conference Championships since joining the league in 1991-92, and they won the 2007-08 Commissioner's Cup as the top overall athletics department. The newly-created football program will play its games in the 65,000-seat Alamodome, while the basketball and volleyball teams play in the Convocation Center (4,080).
Texas State, founded in 1899, has an enrollment of 32,586 and is located in San Marcos, Texas, 50 miles northeast of San Antonio. Texas State sponsors 16 men's and women's sports and plays its home football games in Bobcat Stadium and its basketball games in Strahan Coliseum (7,200). The University will begin stadium expansion next May that will increase the seating capacity of Bobcat Stadium to nearly 30,000 and is expected to be ready for the 2012 football season. The Bobcats appeared in the 2008 FCS playoffs and were a semifinalist in 2005, while their volleyball team has averaged 22 wins and made two NCAA appearances the past three seasons.
Although Utah State's association with UTSA and Texas State on the playing fields is minimal, its relationship with Denver is longstanding as the Aggies and Pioneers have history that dates back to the 1920s in both football and basketball as both schools were members of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference from 1918-37 and the Mountain States Conference/Skyline Conference from 1938-62.
Overall, USU and DU played one another on the gridiron 35 times between 1923 and 1960, while the school's men's basketball teams played each other 87 times from 1923 to 1978. In fact, Denver is Utah State's fourth-oldest rivalry on the hardwood behind BYU (225), Utah (221) and Montana State (116). The two schools will play one another this season for the first time since Feb. 18, 1978.
Utah State and Denver have also been conference affiliates in many of its women's sports as both were members of the High Country Athletic Conference from 1988-90. In fact, both school's gymnastics programs were also members of the Western Gymnastics Conference in 2002 and have competed against one another 40 times since 1978 with the series currently tied at 20 wins apiece.
What Others Are Saying About WAC Expansion
Utah State Head Football Coach Gary Andersen...
"I think it is a great opportunity for Texas State and UTSA to join a quality conference in the WAC, which has a lot to offer with high-quality football and great academic atmosphere for the young men at all of institutions involved. For us to solidify the conference by adding those schools is very, very important."
"The WAC is a great league and it is a great opportunity for all three schools. I'm very happy that it solidifies the conference and puts the WAC in a great position for the future to remain a very powerful conference."
"From a standpoint of looking at ourselves, for Utah State, Texas is becoming a more important place for us to recruit. There is a great chance that we will take another coach and put another full-time recruiting coach in Texas because we have had so much success there in the past."
Utah State Head Men's Basketball Coach Stew Morrill...
"The WAC has been and will continue to be a viable Division I conference. The new additions will prove they belong and we will all go forward as we adapt to the ongoing conference changes. I know Aggie fans will be as strong as ever and will welcome the new members in the same manner our opponents have come to expect."
Utah State Head Women's Basketball Coach Raegan Pebley...
"First I want to express my appreciation for the leadership Utah State President Stan Albrecht, Scott Barnes and Karl Benson have shown during the reloading of the WAC. I am confident that the addition of Denver, Texas State and UTSA are not only good for women's basketball but for the conference as a whole. I am very familiar with all three of these women's basketball programs and believe that they all bring new competition and recruiting opportunities that will help elevate WAC women's basketball."
Utah State Head Women's Soccer Coach Heather Cairns...
"I welcome the addition of UTSA, Denver and Texas State to the Western Athletic Conference as it will increase the strength of soccer in our conference and give us a shot at a possible second NCAA Tournament bid. In addition to regular season conference championships that Denver and Texas State have won, UTSA is participating in the NCAA Tournament this year. Denver has played in the NCAA's in four of the last five years, and Texas State participated in 2004 and 2008."
Longtime Utah State Supporter Carl Lundahl...
"I think its great. It's great to have new places for Aggie fans to go and the potential with all three schools is incredible. The WAC and Karl Benson have been proactive; it will survive, and it will be a league we are proud to represent."
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