WAC looking at five prospective schools
The Western Athletic Conference will continue to examine five schools as possible new members, commissioner Karl Benson said Wednesday, and could issue invitations within the next two months.
The league is studying the possibility of adding the University of Texas-San Antonio, Texas State University, the University of Denver, Seattle University and the University of Montana in the wake of losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference.
All five schools will remain on the WAC radar after a meeting of the league's membership committee in Dallas earlier this week, though Benson left open the possibility that other prospective members "could come back into play" if there's another round of conference realignment.
One way that could happen is if Texas Christian University leaves the Mountain West for the Big East Conference, something The New York Post reported is being studied within the league.
Four of the five prospective WAC additions made formal presentations to the membership committee, which includes the athletic directors from the six remaining WAC schools, including Utah State.
The University of Montana did not make a presentation, Benson said, as it waits to finish a study on whether it should move from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A), where it could join the WAC.
The athletic directors in the WAC "were very impressed with all five universities," Benson said.
The WAC expects to begin making visits to the campuses of all five schools in the next 30 to 60 days, and "could be ready to extend invitations" in that window.
"That's probably our goal," Benson said.
The two Texas schools would join the WAC in all sports starting in 2012, giving it at least eight football-playing members. Seattle and Denver do not have football programs, so they would join in all other sports.
Montana, if it decides to move up to the FBS, would join in all sports, including football.
Benson said that inviting any schools in the next two months would not preclude the WAC from inviting others later, if it wants to do that.
He also said he was "not aware" of any consideration to have Fresno State and Nevada move to the Mountain West in all sports except football in 2011, as a compromise in the fight over when the schools should be allowed to leave the WAC. The WAC says they're obligated to remain until the summer of 2012 it has filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce that opinion but the schools argue they can leave next summer.
Benson otherwise declined to comment on that issue.