SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Fresno State and Nevada should not expect any parting gifts from the other members of the Western Athletic Conference when the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack leave for the Mountain West.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson said on Thursday the departing schools will have to pay $5 million to his league and wait until 2012 to move after accepting the MWC’s invitation and dismantling an agreement the WAC was on the verge of completing with BYU.
The Cougars were in line to rejoin the WAC in all sports other than football, in which BYU would have become an independent.
Benson called Fresno State and Nevada’s decision “selfish.”
“In a 12-hour period, the WAC went from having a secure and prosperous future to once again not knowing what the future will hold,” Benson said in a conference call.
The WAC had already lost Boise State to the MWC earlier this summer, then on Wednesday both Fresno State and Nevada received and accepted invitations to join the Mountain West _ less than a week after WAC members formed a buyout pact intended to keep what was left of the league intact.
Although Nevada did not actually sign the buyout agreement and loyalty pledge, Benson said WAC lawyers believe the Wolf Pack are still subject to the terms of the deal and will seek the money, due 60 days from Wednesday.
“I recommended (the buyout) to the board. I wish at this time I had made it $20 million,” Benson said.
And because Fresno State and Nevada didn’t declare they were leaving before July 1, Benson said both are obligated to the WAC until 2012. Letting the schools go in time for next season will be up to the remaining six WAC schools.
“Only if the WAC believes that it would be in the WAC’s best interest that there would be an early out, would there be an early out,” Benson said.
In the meantime, the WAC is looking for members once again. Since it formed with six teams in 1962, the WAC expanded to the point of two eight-team divisions in the mid-1990s before eight schools departed and formed the Mountain West in 1999.
The WAC has managed to persevere through all the turnover, but Wednesday’s departures were a definite setback, especially if the league and BYU can’t rework their agreement for the Cougars to come back, albeit without football.
Benson said the arrangement was for BYU to still play four to six WAC teams per season in football and schedule the remaining openings on its own, taking advantage of the exposure on the school’s BYU-TV network.
If the Cougars are still up for it, Benson said the door is open. But he didn’t seem optimistic about that possibility and the Cougars were keeping quiet for a second straight day as they considered options.
West Coast Conference commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said in an e-mail he had contacted BYU to see if the school would be interested in joining his conference but had not heard back Wednesday night. The WCC does not compete in football, which would allow BYU to remain independent and would give them another potential option if they don’t want to join a depleted WAC.View Entire Story
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