Withering WAC has been a revolving door for years

By Lynn Debruin

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 14 2012 2:37 p.m. MDT

"In retrospect, perhaps the WAC was ahead of its time," Hurd said, pointing to the super-conferences of today. "The unfortunate part is it was never really given an opportunity to succeed."

The 16-team alignment lasted just three seasons before Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah and Wyoming left to form the Mountain West Conference.

Boise State was added in 2001 but it left the league to play in the Mountain West starting in 2011.

The devastating blow, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said, came when Fresno State and Nevada found a way in 2010 to get out of their agreement to stay in the WAC, "creating a tremendous amount of turmoil" within the league.

Other dominos would fall across the country, many driven by the lure of additional television revenue.

But it was the defections that gave "the perception of instability," Hurd said.

That, in turn, made it more difficult to negotiate television contracts.

"It may not be all about money, but certainly money plays a very significant role in it," Hurd said,

In other cases, "There's almost a fear of being left out or left behind as conferences reconfigure."

At this point, the ones left behind are the Aggies and Vandals.

Both schools could try independence, though that is a tough road.

The Big Sky definitely wants Idaho to become its 14th football-playing member, joining regional schools Idaho State, Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State.

Commissioner Doug Fullerton said the Big Sky may be part of the Football Conference Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA — but he argues that it wouldn't be a step down for Idaho.

He said the Idaho Vandals would become stronger in the FCS than at the bottom of the FBS "because they will become successful."

As for the WAC, Fullerton wasn't as optimistic. He said he can envision it disappearing completely in one year, or playing only basketball — but would be surprised, "barring major help," if it remains an FBS conference.

Lawrence Fan, sports information director at San Jose State, was thankful to be among the nearly two dozen FBS schools nationwide with WAC ties.

"It's all part of progress," Fan said. "Without membership in the WAC, San Jose State would not be where it is today in Division I-A athletics. San Jose State needed the WAC and the WAC extended its arms to San Jose State. That has to be remembered."

The 1984 BYU team, meanwhile, still is hailed as the last school outside one of the major football conferences to win a national championship

"A lot of things fell into place," the 81-year-old Edwards said recently.

BYU pulled off a road upset of No. 3 Pittsburgh during ESPN's first live college football broadcast, survived a nail-biter against Hawaii then rallied behind a beat-up Bosco to beat Michigan in the Holiday Bowl.

"If that same team would have played in the last two-three years, I think we would have been like TCU or Boise State," Edwards said. "They were good. They got a BCS game, but never got a smell as far as a national championship game."

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