WAC Expansion: Seattle University Accepts Invite To The WAC

The Western Athletic Conference is in a somewhat dire situation: they need to expand in order to have more than six members for the 2011-12 and remain a legitimate conference. And Cameron Dollar's potential to build excitement around Seattle University as their men's basketball coach makes them a candidate.

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WAC Expansion: Benson Calls Seattle University 'The Best Possible School' For The Conference

It should come as no surprise that the growth potential for men's basketball was a significant reason for the Western Athletic Conference to invite the Seattle University Redhawks into the fold as its ninth member.

"WAC men's basketball has the potential to be a revenue producer for us and we need to get better at basketball," WAC Commissioner Karl Benson said this afternoon during a media teleconference. "When you look at the demographics of the University of Denver or Seattle University, I don't think there is any reason why they couldn't be the next Gonzaga."

Yet among the reasons that Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson listed for inviting Seattle University into the fold as a non-football member, one that might stand out as mildly ironic for Seattle basketball fans is KeyArena.

The arena that was at the center of the Seattle Sonics' departure from the city was mentioned repeatedly as a reason that the Seattle U. Redhawks were an attractive candidate to add to the conference.

"Seattle is a great sports market and without the NBA being in Seattle we think that the WAC has an opportunity to have some interest in college basketball," said WAC commissioner Karl Benson in a media teleconference today.

Seattle University's move to KeyArena for men's basketball was one of the first things Benson mentioned among the qualities that made the conference's newest addition attractive and he even mentioned the possibility of their new addition providing a new location for the conference's tournament.

"KeyArena is a NBA facility," Benson said. "Again, as we look for future sites for the WAC tournament, we will give strong consideration to Seattle."

Of course, KeyArena was not the lone reason or even a clearly most significant reason - the invite comes after an assessment of what Seattle University offers as a whole.

"Seattle U had the academic characteristics, athletic characteristics, and media market and so we selected Seattle University," Benson said.

Other reasons Benson mentioned for the addition of Seattle University:

  • Seattle University's commitment to improving their sports programs.

  • High-profile coaching hires in men's (former University of Washington assistant Cameron Dollar) and women's basketball (former University of Arizona coach Joan Bonvicini).

    "KeyArena, Cameron Dollar," Benson said. "I think that in the last two years Seattle U has shown their commitment to Division I (athletics).

  • Seattle is not only a top-15 media market, but also a new market for the WAC in a city without the NBA to compete for attention, as Benson noted.

  • Seattle U's multi-million dollar soccer facility, which has already garnered plenty of attention as being one of the top soccer complexes in the nation and hosted a practice for the Colorado Rapids of the MLS.

    "It wouldn't surprise me if the WAC women's soccer championship was held in Seattle," Benson said.


  • The timing was right after Seattle U was left out of the first round of additions.

    "When the University of Hawaii made their departure from the WAC in December that put us in a different environment," Benson said. "That has allowed Seattle U. to emerge as the best possible school for us."

Although the above qualities are what secured an invite for Seattle U., Benson was also clear that the Redhawks were not necessarily competing against possible football schools, having pursued them as well this past January. They also did not rule out the possibility of inviting a second school with Seattle U to bring the conference's membership to 10, with both Utah Valley University and California State Bakersfield being considered but not ultimately being invited.

But ultimately, Seattle U stood out as the clear choice for the current membership of the WAC, although Benson said they would not reveal the actual vote count.

"I think Seattle U. the clear consensus school that brings the most for the WAC to go to," Benson said.

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WAC Expansion: Seattle University To Join Conference In July 2012

In a media teleconference today at 1 p.m. Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson announced the addition of the Seattle University Redhawks, bringing the conference's membership to nine.

WAC Announces Addition of Seattle - WACSports.com—Official Web Site of the Western Athletic Conference
The Western Athletic Conference today announced that an invitation for membership has been issued to and accepted by Seattle University to join the conference effective July 1, 2012. The announcement comes following the conclusion of the Board of Directors meeting in which the Presidents of both the current schools and the previously announced incoming schools for 2012 met to address several issues important to the present and future of the WAC.

However, as a non-football member, one of the major topics of discussion during the teleconference was the fact that the conference still stands at only seven football members, which is less than ideal.

"The addition of Seattle U. is a very positive first step, but not a last step," Benson said during the press conference.

Benson also noted during the teleconference that Utah Valley State and California State University - Bakersfield applied but did not receive an invite.

A replay of the teleconference will be available at WACSports.com while the Seattle University press conference starting at 2 p.m. PST will be available at GoSeattleU.com with an audio and video stream, according to a WAC representative.

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WAC Expansion: Seattle University To Hold Press Conference In Response To Invite

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Bobcat Report has been tweeting this morning that Seattle University to the WAC is a done deal.

Last season, the Redhawks men's basketball team - the primary focus as a "revenue sport" - was 1-4 against the WAC, defeating Idaho on December 11. That, in case you're wondering, is one win better than their 0-4 record against the WCC.

But of course, in order to survive, the WAC will need to add football schools as well. San Jose Mercury News reporter Jon Wilner suggests they might take a two-phase approach to that.

WAC football: Expansion vote to come Tuesday(?) | College Hotline
Phase One (according to sources): Invite Seattle next week to join for the 2012-13 school year.

Phase Two: Invite multiple schools, including those that play football, next June (for 2013-14).

The delay would allow prospective football members to resolve the massive financial and/or political issues that come with jumping from FCS to FBS.

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WAC Expansion: Commissioner Karl Benson Could Announce Seattle U. Invitation Today

After the Western Athletic Conference board of directors meeting in Park City, Utah concludes today, Commissioner Karl Benson will hold a media conference during which he could announce an invitation for the Seattle University Redhawks to the conference, as reported on Sunday by Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Seattle University could get invite to Western Athletic Conference by Tuesday | Seattle Times Newspaper
If invited, Seattle U. would be a non-football-playing member and would join for the 2012-13 academic year. That is also the first year that the Seattle U.'s men's basketball team would be eligible for the NCAA tournament.

An invitation, if extended, would likely come on Tuesday and Benson said that "I would expect that it would be immediate acknowledgment" of a decision to accept. Invitations must be extended and accepted by July 1 for schools to join in time for the 2012-13 season.

Although some Seattle fans might have been hoping for an invitation to the West Coast Conference for Seattle U., the reality is that membership in a conference gives the program a better shot at the NCAA tournament with the opportunity to secure an automatic bid through the conference tournament. And, as Condotta notes, with the opportunity to go to the Big Dance, Seattle U becomes a much more attractive destination for recruits.

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SBN Seattle Commentary: Finding A Conference Is Important, But The WAC Is Less Than Ideal For Seattle U

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Finding A Conference Is Important, But The WAC Is Less Than Ideal For Seattle U - The Daily Drip - SB Nation Seattle
As mentioned in Watson's article, the WAC has considered both Seattle U and North Texas as potential candidates for expansion. All reports are that Seattle U is not yet off the table and given where they are now - and particularly if Hawaii leaves - the WAC will have to do something.

At some point, the WAC might be forced to invite schools like Seattle U and North Texas into the fold. But at this point, it's difficult to understand why a school would accept an invite into a struggling conference on the brink of losing significant revenue streams.

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WAC Expansion: Seattle U Still In The Picture, But Big West & Moutain West Join Forces To Lure Hawaii Away

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Seattle University is still not out of the picture for WAC expansion, according to Fred Lewis of the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Expanded WAC still may not sate Hawaii
Seattle University, which had been under consideration as a non-football member, could be reconsidered in the wake of Montana's rejection. Benson said the Redhawks remain under consideration but gave no timetable for when "phase two" of expansion might be undertaken.

However, a new development might change that picture a bit: with Montana University officially deciding to remain in the Big Sky, the WAC needed to keep Hawaii because they have maintained the eight football members is the absolute minimum.

Well, Hawaii has been considering leaving the WAC for sometime either going independent in football or relocating altogether and now the Big West and Mountain West have joined forces to really jeopardize that football minimum.

UH offered to join Mountain West in football, Big West in other sports - Hawaii News - Staradvertiser.com
The University of Hawaii is being extended an offer to join the Mountain West Conference, the Star-Advetiser has learned.

Signs point to UH being offered a football-only membership, although MWC sources would not immediately confirm it.

A 7 p.m. press conference has been called for Bachman Hall to make the announcement.

No word yet if this is a press conference to announce an offer or an offer and acceptance, but things are not looking good for the WAC - or Seattle University's chances of finding a home - if Hawaii chooses to relocate for football.

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WAC Expansion: Denver, Texas-San Antonio And Texas State Officially Accept Invites

Denver, Texas San-Antonio, and Texas State have all officially received and accepted invites from the WAC, with membership effective 2012. 

From a WAC release:

The announcement was made by the chair of the WAC Board of Directors and Utah State University President Stan Albrecht and WAC Commissioner Karl Benson after the Board unanimously voted to issue the invitations earlier this week.

“The Board of Directors is extremely dedicated to the long-term stability and growth of the Western Athletic Conference," said Albrecht. "The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University and the University of Denver are three very strong institutions, both in their commitment to building athletic excellence and in their commitment to academics. We believe that all three will help us in our quest to make the WAC one of the outstanding athletic conferences in the country.”

Although there is no official word on Seattle University’s status, Montana’s decision to stay in the Big Sky is a significant development that opens up that possibility.

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WAC Expansion: Montana's Choice To Stay In Big Sky Leaves Opening For Seattle

With the WAC making an announcement about their expansion decision today, Seattle University might have gotten the break they needed to get an invite.

Montana will stick with Big Sky - Spokesman.com - Nov. 11, 2010
HELENA, Mont. — University of Montana’s president says the Grizzlies will stay in the Big Sky Conference and not move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

President Royce Engstrom said in a release Thursday that it was a complex decision. But, he adds, the better course for the school is to stay with the conference it helped establish in 1963.

Although this is the development that Seattle reportedly needed to get an invite into the conference - it would give the conference 10 basketball schools - there's still no word about whether they will immediately accept.

The next question aside from whether Seattle might accept is whether the WCC might offer an invite as they have only nine schools as well. Previous reports stated that Gonzaga coach Mark Few was against adding a low RPI school to the conference and that new add BYU was lobbying for Denver. However, latest reports are that they will stand pat at nine instead of rushing to expand.

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WAC Expansion: ESPN Reports Three Teams Will Join While Seattle Still Waits On Montana

As described here previously, ESPN's Andy Katz is reporting that Denver University, University of Texas-San Antonio and Texas State will join the Western Athletic Conference, pending official approval of UTSA from the Texas board of regents.

But that appears to be a matter of working, according to MySanAntonio.com's Dan McCarney.

Meanwhile, Seattle University is still waiting on a decision from Montana, according to Katz.

Sources: Denver University, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State to join WAC - ESPN
Montana could also join the WAC in all sports, especially if the Grizzlies decide to bump up from FCS to FBS in football. Montana, a FCS power, is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks. If the Grizzlies decide against the move then Seattle would likely step in with all sports except football.

The WAC's perfect scenario, according to multiple sources, is to get to nine football schools, including Montana and 10 basketball schools.

McCarney adds some insight about the Montana decision and how that might influence whether tomorrow's announcement will be about acceptances or invites.

The WAC puzzle nears completion | UTSA Sports | a mySA.com blog
The one final piece of the puzzle, whether or not the University of Montana will join, is reportedly close to being slotted home.

According the the Missoulian newspaper, Montana will make its decision to stay in the Football Championship Subdivision or move up to the WAC within the next week.

WAC sources have said commissioner Karl Benson prefers to make one sweeping announcement, unveiling all of the league’s additions at once, rather than do it piecemeal. So, if Montana hasn’t announced its decision by tomorrow, we might only get official acknowledgment of an invitation.

But, again — that will only be a matter of semantics.

So the bottom line for Seattle in the immediate future is this: if tomorrow's announcement comes without an indication of what Montana has decided, Seattle still has a chance at getting into the WAC. But if Montana chooses to make a move, Seattle is likely left without a conference.

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WAC Expanstion: Seattle University SItuation Still Unresolved

In the last update, I attributed a report about Seattle University being “crossed off the list” to Dan McCarney of MySanAntonio.com.

But to clarify, McCartney was only relaying information from Jay Walker of ESPN 1420 in Lafayette, Louisiana:

SOURCES: DENVER TO ACCEPT WAC INVITE
Odd man out in the WAC expansion appears to be Seattle University.  Newspaper reports indicated Seattle would be a part of the WAC expansion plans, but the WAC has chosen to be a nine team conference (eight for football) and wait until Montana is ready to make the move.

However, as stated in McCartney’s article, his sources say that nothing is settled at this point.

Western still waiting, according to sources
At this point, with at least three or four different scenarios floating around the blogosphere, picking the winner seems akin to throwing darts against the wall.

All I can do is trust my sources, and they’re telling me the same thing: no news at this time.

All we have heard from Seattle U is that they’ve neither received an invite nor a site visit at this time, which is probably further evidence that a final decision has yet to be made.

Our apologies to McCartney and Walker for the misattribution.

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