A new WAC wouldn't be wacky
By-product of conference shifts might create SWC-like flavor
08:56 PM CDT on Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Judging by a highly secretive set of backroom maneuverings, the nature of which was divulged only after a reporter asked, it now appears that someone wants our local universities.
First comes the leak of an internal WAC memo targeting Conference USA for a hostile takeover.
Not the entire conference, mind you. The Big East already is trying to make off with Louisville and Cincinnati, and Army's going AWOL after next season.
According to the memo, the WAC is interested only in TCU, Houston and Tulane, and Britton Banowsky can keep the rest, thank you very much.
Now, the C-USA commissioner is not about to watch his league pulled out from under him without a fight.
Next thing you know, you hear rumblings that, in a counter-strike, C-USA might offer SMU.
Good news: Nothing like being wanted, unlike the dying days of the departed Southwest Conference, when the state schools regarded their old private school chums with all the affection of a case of West Nile.
Better news: Could this mean the return of the SWC, or a reasonable facsimile?
Doesn't matter in what form, or under whose umbrella. The WAC's alleged expansion plans are as good as any: A 12-team league with two divisions, the Central Time zone including current members SMU, Rice, Tulsa and Louisiana Tech, joined by C-USA expatriates TCU, Houston and Tulane.
Of course, if you're counting, that's seven schools, not six. Still might work, seeing as how any given year at least one SWC school was ineligible, anyway.
Let's be optimistic and hope that the NCAA isn't holding any grudges. Even at that, chances aren't good that all the expansion targets would be amenable to a move.
TCU, for example. You might remember that the Horned Frogs were once married to the WAC, and not so long ago that they've gotten over it.
Talking TCU into coming back wouldn't be easy for Karl Benson, commissioner of the WAC. Hey, Benson's so "alarmed" over the leaked memo that he won't even comment on News reports that he'll meet Saturday with Eric Hyman, TCU's athletic director.
Hyman's not so demure. While pledging his allegiance to C-USA, he confirmed the meeting and said he'll do "what's right for TCU."
An athletic director culture primer: Once upon a time, ADs were a bunch of old coaches that filled out their football schedules during a round of golf and then cut each other up over a few beers. Now, they're CEOs that can tell you how much money a booster's carrying just by the way he walks, and all they're cutting up is press boxes into luxury suites.
Everyone's out to make money, and you can hardly blame them. Just this summer, you heard wailing and sermons about the immorality of the ACC raiding the poor Big East, and then the Big East turns around and eats C-USA.
Moral: This is how the college food chain works, and Hyman is right to protect his own.
And what he wants is the Big 12. TCU partisans figure they have just as much right as Baylor, which may not be in the best standing the next time realignment comes around.
But the Big 12 isn't liable to take on another private school, even if it drops Baylor. Not to mention that the old Big Eight schools figure they plucked their four SWC peers off a raft in the Gulf, and their reward was to watch the state of Texas pirate the league office and basketball tournament.
Last thing they want is another Texas school. So where does that leave TCU? Looking for the best deal, and better off for the options.
But don't get too choosy. Changing leagues is easier and more socially acceptable than it was back when Arkansas left the SWC, but the national landscape was fairly stable then.
All bets are off now. Conferences are cannibalizing each other without any qualms, and who knows where it leads?
One argument is that it'd be wise to wait and see where it all falls out. But what if you hold out too long, and it happens without you?
Prediction: A regional alignment will be TCU's best option, as unappealing as that may seem to a school that has improved its facilities and fortunes greatly since the demise of the SWC.
Besides, how bad could it be? Maybe it's not your father's SWC, but it sure beats indifference.