The Western Athletic Conference’s desire to add a basketball team could click nicely with Seattle University’s desire to find a league for its eventual Division I basketball program.
As of now, it’s far more of a notion than a proposal. But the intriguing concept was raised this week in San Jose, as the WAC held its annual football preview for the media.
Expansion or contraction is seldom far off the radar for the fluid WAC, which over the past decade has had as many as 16 members, as few as few as eight, and is currently home to nine institutions reaching from Louisiana to Hawaii and New Mexico to Idaho.
Nine members works fine for football, providing eight conference games for each school with a natural bye week built in. However, nine is a problematic number for basketball because one team always lacks an opponent, and it creates undesirable one-game road trips, rather than the more comfortable even number of travel partners. As a bonus, another member would reduce the burden of out-of-conference scheduling for all WAC schools by two games – including one annual home game.
"A nine-team football conference is ideal. It works, and it work perfectly," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. "It doesn’t work for basketball. Our basketball coaches have made it clear that a 10th team would be better from a scheduling standpoint. But I don’t think we’re at a point where it’s urgent."
The logical solution is adding a non-football member. That’s a step the WAC hasn’t traditionally taken, but the idea has been floated without being shot down.
"We would not rule out a non-football member," Benson said Tuesday. "But at this time we’re certainly not even considering either a non-football or a football member."
Meanwhile, the WAC’s interest coincides interestingly with that of Seattle University, which has stated its intention to move up to Division I basketball but was initially rebuffed by the West Coast Conference.
The WCC seemed to make sense because it’s a non-football conference and a geographical fit. But the WAC also is a geographical fit. And if they’re not looking to add a football member.