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WAC commish calls latest departures ‘selfish’
The remaining WAC members are Hawaii, Utah State, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Idaho. Benson said the league will look at other schools, including members of the Football Championship Subdivision that may be interested in moving up a division and joining.
“I would expect that we’re going to continue to see other movements and additional restructuring across the board,” he said. “Obviously as the WAC rebuilds we will need to look at other conferences. Unfortunately over the course of the last 15 years the WAC has done that on a fairly regular basis. When we’ve done it, we’ve done it in an aboveboard fashion.”
Utah State, which joined the league with New Mexico State and Idaho in 2005, was also approached by the MWC, but the Aggies felt the agreement already in place within the WAC was binding, athletic director Scott Barnes said in an open letter released Thursday afternoon.
“We were simply committed to uphold our agreement with fellow WAC members,” Barnes wrote.
While Benson was still seething about Fresno State and Nevada, his remarks softened a little when asked about the moves from the Mountain West’s standpoint and MWC commissioner Craig Thompson’s quick push to get the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack on board if BYU did in fact leave.
“He has a job to do and I have a job to do. Our jobs are to put our respective organizations in the best possible position for success for our member institutions. I don’t look at it as necessarily predatory,” he said. “I think we’re all chasing the BCS. We’re chasing recognition and notoriety and we’re chasing the financial benefits that come with the BCS.”
Thompson said Wednesday night that adding Fresno State and Nevada was not designed to thwart BYU’s departure by weakening the WAC.
Benson had a very different take.
“My opinion, it was very clear to me and to the WAC membership that the Fresno and Nevada invitation was direct result of BYU’s interest of going independent and joining the WAC,” he said.
Benson said the WAC will also have to re-negotiate its TV deal with ESPN.
Nevada athletic director Cary Groth said Wednesday night that the move made sense for the Wolf Pack in enough ways to jump despite the potential buyout and negative feelings from the rest of the league. The Reno school expects to be able to cut travel expenses now that Hawaii and Louisiana Tech will no longer be on upcoming schedules.
“The exposure of the Mountain West also has been a little stronger than the WAC,” Groth told The Associated Press. “I’d say those two factors particularly played a role.”
Associated Press writers Josh Dubow in San Francisco and Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this report.
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