Two schools make a lot of sense, Portland State and Sacramento State. They are from large media markets, just like recent WAC additions Denver, Seattle, Texas San-Antonio, and Texas-Arlington. They would also help get the league back to it's west coast roots. Sacramento State and Portland State would join the league's longest tenured member, San Jose State, to form a western division along with Seattle, Idaho, and Utah State. The Spartans should have a division buit around them. As much as the WAC needed Texas, they also need the west coast.
Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, and Denver would join the three Texas schools to form an "eastern" division. Having two divisions and twelve schools overall make a lot of sense for the spread out league. The WAC must get back to nine football schools to avoid disaster. It's really a tough spot to be in for WAC Commissioner Karl Benson. No one wants to join the league because of the unknown, but it's the unknown that could eventually take football away from the WAC.
The Mountain West and Conference USA have been talking merger. What if Utah State or Louisiana Tech leave? Can the WAC withstand yet another departure or will teams like NMSU or UTSA look for more stability in the Sun Belt?
The big question with the merger is travel. Can Fresno, Nevada, and UNLV really travel in all sports to East Carolina and Marshall? Is that really smart? West Virginia can join the Big 12 because there is enough money involved to pay travel costs. Boise State and San Diego State joined the Big East, but only in football.
Conference USA has always been about large markets. Would the league, down to eight members, be better off adding Louisiana Tech and putting them in a new eastern division with Tulane, Marshall, USM, UAB, and ECU? This would help with travel and create some interesting rivalries. Who would join Rice, Tulsa, and UTEP in the west? The answer is found in the WAC and it brings back the point of large markets.
First, let's look at the Mountain West Conference. do they really need to join with CUSA or would they be better off adding UTEP and Utah State and staying at ten members? The latter makes all the sense in the world. The MWC would have a tight knit group with great basketball and some really good rivalries.
Back to that western division for Conference USA. You now have Rice and Tulsa. Bring in North Texas, UTSA, New Mexico State to get to five teams. Then bring in San Jose State for football only. NMSU brings in great basketball and you also bring in three huge markets. Boise State, San Diego State, BYU, and Hawaii have all recently pulled off the football only or football independent deal and SJSU could as well.
Texas Arlington and Texas State would make easy transitions into the Sunbelt, giving that league twelve teams for basketball and ten for football.
Why blow up the WAC? It's sad to talk about the dismantling of the tradition rich league, but the truth hurts. The WAC is on it's last legs and if Utah State or Louisiana Tech found their way into the merger, the conference is pretty much toast.
The Western Athletic Conference could still survive, but it would be without football. Idaho, San Jose State, Seattle, and Denver would be instantly joined by Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley State. Both teams have been on the short list for WAC expansion for a while. Other potential candidates could be Houston Baptist, Lamar, Missouri-Kansas City, and Nebraska-Omaha.
Conference USA meets agin this weekend. Odds are, this merger deal is all but done. If not, here is our proposal:
New Mexico State
San Jose State (football only)
Hawaii (football only)
UALR (non-football) Texas Arlington (non-football)