USU breaks silence on WAC moves

An open letter from Utah State Athletics Director Scott Barnes,

I know you have been closely following Wednesday’s news that Nevada and
Fresno State announced they are leaving the Western Athletic Conference
(WAC) to join the Mountain West Conference (MWC). In a 12-hour period we
have gone from looking forward to participating in an expanded WAC with a
bright and prosperous future to one of some uncertainty.

Recently, Utah State, under President Stan Albrecht’s strong leadership,
played a major role in exploring the possibility of bringing BYU into the
WAC. As of Tuesday, BYU was on the verge of joining the WAC in all sports
but football.

As part of the WAC’s conversations with BYU, the current eight conference
members (excluding departing Boise State) agreed to remain together as a
conference for at least five years. This stability was important to BYU, to
other current members, and would have been critical as other expansion
options were explored. WAC members signed a letter of commitment that
included a $5M membership buyout. When the possibility of BYU leaving became
known, MWC leadership contacted three WAC members inquiring about their
interest in joining the MWC. Utah State was the first of these three
contacts.

At the point in time when Utah State was contacted by the MWC we had a
binding agreement with the WAC and were well positioned with nine members,
which included BYU. We were simply committed to uphold our agreement with
fellow WAC members. We respectfully declined MWC interest and believed all
WAC members would remain committed to our agreement.

As the WAC currently stands we are a nine-member conference for the 2010-11
academic year and an eight-member conference in 2012-13 (after Boise State
departs). The NCAA minimum to be recognized as an affiliated conference is
six members, which the WAC still meets after Nevada and Fresno State leave.

This is a dynamic phase in college athletic conference alignments. We
anticipate additional changes in conference membership on a national scale
for the foreseeable future.

That said, Utah State Intercollegiate Athletics continues to be in growth
mode. We have excellent coaches in place who have recruited and mentored
nearly 350 student-athletes who are excelling in competition and in the
classroom.

We have created significantly more resources in operating budgets, enhanced
facilities, and have developed a strategic plan to guide us in our continued
growth and success.

I do not take lightly the negative effect that recent changes in the
composition of the WAC will have on us, but these are not insurmountable. We
have persevered through many changes in the athletic landscape and are
prepared and better equipped to do so again. We will continue to focus on
building programs that win championships, graduate talented
student—athletes, as well as excite and unify Aggies everywhere.

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