It was four years ago this month that the WAC decided to expand its ranks six-fold, forming a cumbersome, 16-member league that sprawls from Houston to Honolulu and stretches across four time zones.
The WAC created a monster, and the league's athletic directors and conference officials have been trying to tame it ever since.Meanwhile, serious questions about the WAC's future, and how much longer it can survive in its current state, abound.
One of the hot-button issues in the WAC is realignment, which will be the focus of the athletic directors meetings May 1-4 in Tucson, Ariz.
Most ADs agree it's time to adopt a new scheduling format, but there is no consensus about how to do it. Their goal is to preserve old rivalries, contain costs for all 16 financially strapped programs and maintain a competitive balance.
Any decision reached this weekend by the athletic directors will be forwarded to the WAC's school presidents, who have final say. But recommending a proposal for the presidents won't be easy to come by among the ADs.
"Every time the wind changes, so does everybody's opinion," said Wyoming athletic director Lee Moon, who serves on the committee that has been examining realignment. "I have no clue, honestly, about how it's going to turn out. Everything is hypothetical at this point. We're just going to try to make a quality recommendation to the presidents."
"When you have 16 people," explained Colorado State AD Tim Weiser, "you're not going to agree on everything."
On the table for discussion will be several scheduling models that could lead to permanent divisions. Among the proposals are east-west and north-south alignments.
As it stands now, under the current quadrant system, what the WAC lacks in continuity it more than makes up for in confusion. The past two football seasons, for example, BYU and Utah were in the Mountain Division and played teams like Texas Christian, Southern Methodist and Rice. Next season, the Cougars and Utes will be part of the Pacific Division, which includes opponents like San Jose State, San Diego State and UNLV.
Several athletic directors believe permanent divisions would go a long way toward curing what ails the WAC. "We feel very strongly we should do something to build rivalries, alleviate travel concerns and make it easier for people to understand our conference," said Utah AD Chris Hill. "We are trying to figure out how to make this work. With the number of schools involved, it's difficult."
If permanent divisions are eventually adopted, some longstanding football rivalries, such as BYU-Colorado State, could be dissolved except for an occasional cross-over game. Because the Cougars draw so many fans both at home and on the road, at least in football, every school has expressed interest in being in the same division as BYU.
The Cougars have mixed feelings about which way realignment is headed. "Those traditional rivalries with the Front Range schools (Wyoming, Colorado State and Air Force) have been great for BYU," said athletic director Rondo Fehlberg. "But we've also had a great rivalry in football with San Diego State and in basketball with New Mexico and UTEP."
Moon is not sold on permanent divisions. "I'm not sure how a north-south division would work because that would isolate the Texas schools and the northern tier would be like the old WAC," he said. "That would be a tough division, football-wise. I'm not sure if you can find a better way than the quadrant system."
Indeed, there is the possibility that no permanent division proposal will be recommended to the presidents. In that case, the quads would probably remain intact. The quadrant system may still be the most viable compromise.
"It's a clear indication of why the WAC didn't go to permanent divisions four years ago," said WAC commissioner Karl Benson. "It's a delicate issue, one that schools have very strong feelings about."
Along with realignment, revenue sharing is a topic the ADs will discuss in Tucson.