Gonzaga is staying in the West Coast Conference — for now

League made changes to appease the Zags, and they worked

FILE - In this March 6, 2018 file photo Gonzaga's Zach Norvell Jr. raises his hands to the crowd during the first half of the West Coast Conference tournament championship NCAA college basketball game against BYU in Las Vegas. Norvell is providing Gonzaga with fiery spark on the way to the Sweet 16. Norvell hit tiebreaking 3-pointer in NCAA Tournament opening round and scored 28 points in second round. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, file)

Provo • BYU basketball fans don’t have to worry about West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga leaving the conference for at least another year.

After a meeting with Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh on Monday, Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth told the Spokesman-Review that the Zags are staying put, for now.

“Our decision is to remain in the WCC, where we’ve had a great relationship for 39 years going on 40,” Roth told the newspaper. “For a number of reasons, maintaining our status in the WCC is the right thing for Gonzaga University.”

In February, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Gonzaga was having discussions with the Mountain West Conference about a possible jump to that league. BYU was a member of the MWC until 2011, when it went independent in football and placed most of its other sports in the WCC.

Gonzaga has been in the WCC since the 1979-80 season.

The initial report from the San Diego newspaper mentioned BYU as a possible “package deal” with Gonzaga to the Mountain West, but those rumors were quickly shot down by officials from both schools.

Roth left open the possibility of reopening the discussions with the Mountain West. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has repeatedly said BYU is not exploring a move to any conference outside one of the five power conferences.

“Could [discussions] resurface as part of the evaluation of the future? That’s a crystal ball I can’t look into,” Roth said.

The WCC announced on March 26 changes to its revenue distribution process, tournament format, and regular-season scheduling plans, changes that Gonzaga has pushed for the past several years. BYU coach Dave Rose, head of the WCC’s basketball coaches group, was quoted in the league release as also being in favor of the changes.

The league’s basketball schedule will be trimmed from 18 to 16 games and the top two seeds in the men’s and women’s tournaments will get byes into the semifinal round, thereby reducing the possibility of upsets.

The Union-Tribune reported last week that Gonzaga will get $1 million per year in NCAA Tournament back shares it earned in past years.

“They are offering some things that probably don’t make sense for our league,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson told the San Diego newspaper.

Roth told the Spokesman-Review that it wasn’t one specific thing that caused the Zags to stay in the WCC.

“Collectively, all the pieces were part of the decision,” he said.