We all know Utah State has been in the middle of a game of conference chess where one move impacts several others.
Nearly lost in the football-heavy discussions are the impacts on basketball and other sports.
True to his roots, ESPN’s Andy Katz makes sure we don’t forget.
“The shuffling between the MWC and the WAC may not move the BCS meter one bit for an automatic berth for the MWC. What it has done is possibly crushed the WAC in football, basketball and other sports.”
Katz couldn’t be more right about that.
The Mountain West will not get automatic qualifier status in the BCS — the BCS wil make sure of that.
But with the WAC now a hollow shell, the conference is done as a mid-major player in football and the other sports will suffer tremendously as a result.
USU athletic director Scott Barnes, in the ESPN.com article, admits this is a critical time in Utah State history but the Aggies must be patient.
“We can’t panic,” Barnes told ESPN. “We can’t make a hasty decision. We have to make the right decision because what we do could affect the WAC for the next 10 years.”
Barnes said if the WAC was to bring in other schools, like UT-San Antonio or Texas State or North Texas, it would revisit another binding agreement. Clearly, those schools need to know what they might be joining. Barnes is a new member of the NCAA tournament men’s basketball selection committee. He knows he can’t put Utah State in any situation where the men’s basketball program doesn’t have a chance to earn an automatic bid to the NCAAs.
A six-team WAC won’t lose its AQ for two years after it drops below seven teams (at the minimum 2012 and ’13) but must add a seventh team three years after (for 2014).
Regardless of what Hawaii, Utah State and other schools decide, the question that is asked by observers within the NCAA membership is what was it for? Adding Nebraska makes sense if the Big Ten wanted to be at 12 and the Cornhuskers are still within the footprint of the league. But the rest of the moves are lateral and don’t really mean much more than possibly getting rid of a conference that has had a long history in the NCAA.
“What’s important here is to make a rationale decision,” Barnes said. “Our mission is to educate the student-athlete and win championships.”
Stew Morrill has built a regional power in basketball. But he’ll be hard pressed to keep that going — especially in regards to RPI and national recognition — as a member of the Big West or Big Sky.
These are, indeed, heavy times for the Aggies. Stay tuned because the developments that happen over the next days, weeks and months will forever shape Utah State’s athletic future.