HONOLULU (AP) - The University of Hawaii is joining the Mountain West Conference for football and the Big West in other sports, abandoning the Western Athletic Conference after 32 years.
School President M.R.C. Greenwood said Friday that Hawaii will make the move in 2012, following Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State to the MWC.
The four schools represent the top football programs in the WAC, which is adding Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and the University of Denver on July 1, 2012. Denver doesn’t have a football team.
School leaders at the MWC and Big West voted unanimously in favor of inviting Hawaii, which has been in the WAC since 1979.
“We’re headed in a new direction and this is a really a historic and great day for the University of Hawaii,” athletics director Jim Donovan said. “This is what our coaches and our fans want and we delivered.”
Hawaii will become the 10th member of the MWC and will renew rivalries with former WAC schools. MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson welcomed the Warriors to the league, which is losing Utah to the Pac-10, TCU to the Big East and BYU becoming an independent.
“Hawaii’s outstanding football program and television value fit perfectly with the MWC’s strategic initiatives for the future direction of the conference,” Thompson said in a statement.
The 24th-ranked Warriors are the WAC’s longest-running member and shared the conference football title with No. 10 Boise State and No. 13 Nevada this year. The remaining WAC members are San Jose State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech and Utah State.
WAC Commissioner Karl Benson had no response to the announcement.
Donovan expressed concern that the WAC was moving toward the Central Time Zone with the addition of the Texas schools, which would’ve increased travel costs for Hawaii along with student-athletes spending more time away from school.
He said the TV agreements still need to be worked out. Other financial details weren’t disclosed, but Donovan said, “We couldn’t afford not to do it.”
As for the Big West, Hawaii Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said the conference fits so well, “academically, competitively, philosophically and geographically.”
Big West Commissioner Dennis Farrell said he’s been with the conference for 30 years and some of the best years were when Hawaii was a member. Hawaii women’s teams were members of the Big West from 1984 to 1996.
“The thing we bring is aloha,” Greenwood said. “We’re also going to bring one heck of a set of teams and they should not expect the aloha to go to far while we are playing their teams.”
The president also would not go into the financial details.
“I don’t think we can make projections about winning or losing financially right now,” she said. “Consider though, this is a critical investment for the state and the citizens and the university to move forward and get the recognition that we deserve.”
Several Hawaii coaches were in attendance and spoke in favor of the move.
“We’re having a very good recruiting year and when this came out, it even got better,” football coach Greg McMackin said. “I think it’s all positive.”
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