You don’t often see large institutions eat each other in public; they usually like to enjoy their meals in the library with a goblet of good port. But, things got desperate last week, and if it comes to it, universities can put belly to ground and fight in the pig shit as well as anyone else.
I’m talking about the furious, last-second piranha-feeding that was the Mountain West Conference gorging itself on the Western Athletic Conference — this, right after it looked like the WAC had terminated the MWC by picking off all of BYU athletics save for football. Now that’s entertainment.
On August 13, during a conference call, WAC presidents agreed to a motion made by Fresno State president John Welty to draw up and sign a binding agreement that mandated a five-million-dollar exit fee for any school that left the conference within the next five years. The measure passed unanimously. Five days later, Fresno State left the conference with Nevada on its arm.
Oh, sharper than a serpent’s tooth. Oh, ungrateful, foul, and disloyal university corporation. Oh, WAC with six teams and ineligible for NCAA bowl appearances. Oh, oh, oh.
WAC commissioner Karl Benson said, “We will begin, immediately, a process to target prospective members to the WAC that will include both current FBS 1A schools as well as the FBS 1AA schools that have expressed an interest.”
Oh, happy day for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, U. of North Texas, and the Western College of Dentistry. Oh, bright prospects for the West Coast Conference, suddenly in the bidding for BYU athletics minus football.
It’s been a long, dry summer for the college industrial complex. Pac-10 tries to gobble Texas and 5 of its feeder colleges, settles for Colorado and Utah. Mountain West grabs Boise State, loses Utah, but comes off the ropes in the tenth round and nails Nevada and Fresno State. The Big 12 loses 2, the Big Ten gains 1, and let’s not forget all the conference moves that did not occur but came oh-so-close. There’s much more, but none had the last second, double-dealing, backstabbing perfection that the MWC and WAC put together for our summertime enjoyment.
And it’s not over. WAC survivors are panicked. They stampede hither and yon, trying to punch their ticket on the last outbound train. The WAC’s five-million-dollar exit penalty might make a few lawyers rich but will never be paid by Fresno or Nevada. In fact, since they’ve left, any other school in the WAC can leave without paying a dime. Don’t stand in front of the door.
WAC-success Hawaii is looking to go independent. Utah State (which, inexplicitly, rejected an MWC advance in June) is now immersed in a frenzy of negotiation, trying to get reinvited.
The biggest dog has yet to be heard. It’s rumored and reported that BYU was lobbying the WAC earlier this summer. BYU wants to go independent in football. They own a TV network, credit themselves as being a national brand, and believe they could earn millions more dollars as an independent. Easy, easy.
But BYU has a problem: go independent in football, and the MWC conference will certainly expel your disloyal ass, leaving your non-football sports with no one to play.
Solution: make a secret, backroom deal with the WAC to take your non-football sports after you go independent. Then — and here’s the beauty part — get the WAC to make a contract among themselves, mandating a five-million-dollar exit fee for any school that leaves during the next five years.
That way, the strongest schools — Fresno, Nevada, and Hawaii — are locked into the WAC. So, when BYU leaves the Mountain West to go independent in football and ship their other sports to the WAC, BYU’s current conference, Mountain West, would not be able to come over and cannibalize the WAC out of existence. The WAC needed to remain intact in order to provide a home for BYU’s non-football sports. That’s big-league, old-time, balance-of-power scheming, and the Box congratulates the Beast from Provo for a game effort. Things didn’t work out. It happens.
You can see what’s coming...college sports have become industries, and like other industries in America, four or five big pigs will own 80 percent of the inventory and everybody else will starve. CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd thinks it’s going to boil down to four conferences of 16 teams each, which sounds about right.
Unfortunately, none of this will affect San Diego State’s eternally crappy football program. In a better world, SDSU would take Fresno’s place and join the WAC so that — maybe — the Aztecs could win a football game now and then.