Bolting the WAC to create a new conference appears to be a win-win situation in the long term for BYU, Utah and the other six breakaway schools. But for now, the losses keep piling up.
Last weekend, their football teams posted a subpar 3-5 record, including three humiliating defeats to opponents from the lowly Big West Conference.The latest setback has come at the hands of a relatively obscure volleyball league.
Because of legal obstacles, officials from the departing schools can't christen their new league the Mountain Pacific Athletic Conference (MPAC), their top choice.
The California-based Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, a 14- school collegiate men's volleyball league made up of teams from the Pac-10, Big West and WAC (including BYU), owns trademark rights to the "Mountain Pacific" name, thus spiking the MPAC possibility. The MPSF is administered by the Big West.
"We called them about sharing the name or purchasing it, but that came up a blank," BYU advancement vice president and transition committee member Fred Skousen said in a phone interview Wednesday evening from Las Vegas, where the transition team is conducting meetings this week.
That means the likely winner of the less-than-inspiring name-the-league derby is . . . Mountain West Conference.
"As a result of our research, Mountain West is the leading candidate," said Skousen, who chairs the subcommittee handling the selection of a conference name. An official announcement is not expected for at least two or three weeks, pending the final decision by the school presidents.
Following an extensive test-marketing campaign, the transition team has submitted a letter to the presidents that states that it prefers Mountain West, which nosed out the two other finalists announced in August - American West and Great West. The three were culled from a list of about 100 names.
Though the transition team is disappointed it can't implement the catchy "MPAC" acronym, Skousen said there are more pressing concerns. "No matter what the name, we must produce results (on the field)," he said. "It's up to us to make it a quality conference."
The release of the official name and the introduction of the first commissioner could occur jointly at a press conference later this month, Skousen said. A league logo is already in the works and could be unveiled at that time. In addition, Skousen said of the five cities that submitted applications to be the headquarters of the conference, the strongest came from Colorado Springs and Las Vegas. The commissioner will help choose the site of the home office.
Salt Lake City submitted a proposal, but it wasn't as strong as the ones from Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, Skousen said. "That doesn't mean (Salt Lake) isn't the best site," he explained. "It means the proposal wasn't as good."
Three candidates for the commissioner's post were interviewed by the transition team Wednesday in Las Vegas while two more were to be interviewed Thursday.
According to published reports, the five candidates that are being interviewed for the position are: Dave Maggard, Turner Sports vice president of communications; Craig Thompson, Sun Belt Conference commissioner; Keith Tribble, Orange Bowl executive director; Kevin Weiberg, Big 10 Conference associate commissioner; Wright Waters, Crimson Tide sports marketing director.
Three of these names will be forwarded to the presidents, who will conduct the final interviews and hire a commissioner.
The conference will begin operations July 1, 1999.