August Miller, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU baseball coach Vance Law admits he's a little conflicted about his program leaving the Mountain West Conference for the West Coast Conference next season.
"It's been 12 years in the Mountain West and I have mixed emotions. I'm excited about the new challenge of going to a new conference, but I'm going to miss a lot of the relationships I've built with the coaches in (the MWC)," Law said. "I've always enjoyed going to the different cities in our conference. But it will be fun to go to some new places, too.
"Although we've played a number of these WCC teams the past few years in non-conference competition, now we'll be playing for conference standings. It will be exciting for our team."
Baseball is one of 11 BYU sports that will compete in the WCC starting in 2011-12, along with men's basketball, women's basketball, men's golf, women's golf, men's cross country, women's cross country, women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis and women's volleyball.
How does the WCC compare to the MWC in baseball?
"I would say it is as strong if not stronger," Law said. "They don't have a TCU in there, but there's really not a low end. Everyone's fairly evenly matched, with competitive programs throughout. It's going to be a solid league top-to-bottom. I think it's a very strong league."
The WCC does not hold a tournament for baseball, but that could change. "They're considering having a four-team postseason tournament to develop a tournament champion to see if they can't get two or three other teams in (the NCAA tournament) also," Law said.
WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich confirmed that the league is examining that possibility.
"We have a championships assessment. It's something they've discussed," he said. "We had a baseball championship in the past but it got eliminated due to some cost-cutting. That's something we're looking at."
Women's soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood said jumping to the WCC will be a step up for her team. The WCC, which includes powers Portland, Santa Clara and San Diego, is considered one of the premier soccer leagues in the nation.
"Portland and Santa Clara have won national championships," Rockwood said. "It will certainly challenge us quite a bit and we look forward to that challenge. Hopefully we can add to the strength of the soccer programs in that conference. We're familiar with them and we've played all of them in the past."
For Jeff Judkins, who starred at Utah and was an assistant at Utah before taking the reins of the BYU women's basketball program for the past decade, the change in leagues presents a new challenge and opportunity.
"My playing and coaching career has been against those (MWC) teams for so long," he said. "But I'm kind of excited for the new challenge. I'm excited to play in some areas where we recruit heavily. We have good coaches in the Mountain West, so I'm going into a league where I don't know the coaches and they don't know me. That's kind of exciting a little bit."
One thing Judkins won't miss? Road trips to places like Laramie and Fort Collins in the middle of winter. "Those are hard trips that take a lot out of you during the season," he said. "Your choice — Laramie or Malibu? Not a tough decision. I'm excited for the new challenge."
Law said he is a little concerned because his team's conference road trips will be longer than they have been.
"There's going to be longer trips. I've been told our travel budget will be able to accommodate some of those so we don't have to bus the 13 hours to the Bay Area four different times a year," he said. "We'll be in California an awful lot."
Rockwood said her team's frequent presence in California should help recruiting.
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