Western Athletic Conference

The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) is an NCAA Division I conference. The WAC covers a broad expanse of the western United States with member institutions located in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah and Washington along with the Midwest state of Illinois and the Southern state of Texas.

Western Athletic Conference
WAC
Western Athletic Conference logo
EstablishedJuly 27, 1962; 59 years ago (1962-07-27)
AssociationNCAA
DivisionDivision I
SubdivisionFCS
Members13 (12 in 2023)
Sports fielded
  • 19
    • men's: 9
    • women's: 10
RegionWestern United States
West South Central United States
Midwestern United States
HeadquartersEnglewood, Colorado
CommissionerBrian Thornton (since November 4, 2021)
Websitewww.wacsports.com
Locations
Western Athletic Conference locations

Due to most of the conference's football-playing members leaving the WAC for other affiliations, the conference discontinued football as a sponsored sport after the 2012–13 season and left the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A). The WAC thus became the first Division I conference to drop football since the Big West in 2000. The WAC then added men's soccer and became one of the NCAA's eleven Division I non-football conferences.[1] The WAC underwent a major expansion on July 1, 2021, with four schools joining. The conference reinstated football at that time and now competes in the Football Championship Subdivision. One year later, on July 1, 2022, one non-football school (Chicago State) will leave, and two FCS football schools (Southern Utah and the University of the Incarnate Word) will join.[2][3][4][5]

MembersEdit

Current membersEdit

The following institutions are the current full members of the Western Athletic Conference as of July 2021.

Institution Location Founded Joined Type Enrollment Endowment Nickname Colors Football
Abilene Christian University Abilene, Texas 1906 2021 Private/Christian
(Churches of Christ)
5,334[6] $638,000,000 Wildcats     Yes
California Baptist University Riverside, California 1950 2018 Private/Christian
(Baptist)
11,491[7] $82,925,000 Lancers     No
Chicago State University Chicago, Illinois 1867 2013 Public/Non-sectarian
(TMCF)
2,620[8] $5,157,070 Cougars     No
Dixie State University* St. George, Utah 1911 2020 Public/Non-sectarian 12,650 $16,300,000 Trailblazers       Yes
Grand Canyon University Phoenix, Arizona 1949 2013 Private For-Profit/Christian
(Non-denominational)
25,000 $21,600,000 Antelopes       No
Lamar University Beaumont, Texas 1923 2021 Public/Non-sectarian
(TSUS)
17,488[9] $128,500,000[10] Cardinals & Lady Cardinals     Yes
New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico 1888 2005 Public/Non-sectarian 21,694[11] $176,266,000 Aggies     FBS
Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas 1879 2021 Public/Non-sectarian
(TSUS)
21,679[12] $116,839,000 Bearkats     Yes
Seattle University Seattle, Washington 1891 2012 Private/Catholic
(Jesuit)
7,755 $241,200,000 Redhawks     No
Stephen F. Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas 1923 2021 Public/Non-sectarian 11,946[13] $81,700,000 Lumberjacks & Ladyjacks     Yes
Tarleton State University Stephenville, Texas 1899 2020 Public/Non-sectarian
(TAMUS)
13,996[14] $42,000,000 Texans     Yes
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg, Texas 2013 2013 Public/Non-sectarian
(UTS)
32,419[15] $46,130,000 Vaqueros     No
Utah Valley University Orem, Utah 1941 2013 Public/Non-sectarian 41,728 $34,800,000 Wolverines     No
Notes
  1. Chicago State will depart the WAC at the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year.[16] New Mexico State and Sam Houston State will depart for Conference USA at the end of the 2022-2023 year.[17]
  2. The founding date for UTRGV listed in this table reflects that of Edinburg College, the predecessor to the former University of Texas–Pan American. While UTRGV was created by the merger of UTPA with UT-Brownsville, the UTRGV athletic program traces its history solely through UTPA.
  3. WAC title totals include regular season and tournament championships and are updated through Spring 2021.
  • As of July 2022, Dixie State University's name will be changed to "Utah Tech University" and will play under that name, including the shorthand "Utah Tech" in Fall 2022 and beyond.[18]

Future membersEdit

The following institutions are announced future full members of the conference.[2][3]

Institution Location Founded Type Enrollment Endowment Nickname Colors Year joining Current conference
Southern Utah University Cedar City, Utah 1897 Public/Non-sectarian 11,224[19] $29,900,000[20] Thunderbirds     2022 Big Sky Conference
University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio, Texas 1881 Private/Catholic
(CCVI)
7,917 $143,800,000 Cardinals       2022 Southland Conference

Affiliate membersEdit

The following 10 schools field programs in the WAC for sports not sponsored by their primary conferences.

CurrentEdit

Institution Location Founded Type Enrollment Nickname Primary conference WAC sport(s) Joined Former
full
member
United States Air Force Academy
(Air Force)
Colorado Springs,
Colorado
1955 Federal 4,413 Falcons Mountain West men's soccer,
men's swimming
2013–14m.soc
2013–14m.sw
 Y
California State University, Sacramento
(Sacramento State)
Sacramento,
California
1947 Public 27,972 Hornets Big Sky baseball 2005–06  N
Houston Baptist University Houston,
Texas
1960 Private 2,567 Huskies Southland men's soccer 2013–14  N
University of Idaho Moscow,
Idaho
1889 Public 12,312 Vandals Big Sky women's swimming 2014–15  Y
University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio,
Texas
1881 Private 8,455 Cardinals Southland men's soccer 2014–15  N
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
(UNLV)
Paradise,
Nevada
1957 Public 29,069 Rebels Mountain West men's soccer,
men's swimming
2013–14m.soc
2013–14m.sw
 Y
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff,
Arizona
1899 Public 18,824 Lumberjacks Big Sky women's swimming 2004–05  N
University of Northern Colorado Greeley,
Colorado
1889 Public 10,097 Bears Big Sky women's swimming 2012–13  N
San Jose State University San Jose,
California
1857 Public 30,448 Spartans Mountain West men's soccer 2013–14  Y
University of Wyoming Laramie,
Wyoming
1886 Public 12,496 Cowboys Mountain West men's swimming 2013–14  Y
Notes
  1. Four schools became affiliate members in men's soccer in July 2013; the WAC announced on January 9, 2013 that it would reinstate the sport, which it had sponsored from 1996 to 1999. Because the conference previously dropped football, it was necessary to add a new men's team sport to maintain its Division I status. It chose men's soccer because three of the confirmed members for 2013–14 (CSU Bakersfield, Grand Canyon, and Seattle) already sponsored the sport, and filled out its soccer ranks by attracting four schools from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Three of these schools have past WAC connections—former full members Air Force, UNLV, and San Jose State.[21] After the WAC announced it would add men's soccer, the conference gained an eighth soccer school for the 2013 season when UMKC, which already sponsored the sport, joined. In addition, Utah Valley added the sport for 2014, UT-Pan American (now known as UT Rio Grande Valley) added it for 2015, and Chicago State was slated to add it for 2016 but did not do so until 2020 (by which time UMKC returned to the Summit League under its current athletic identity of Kansas City).
  2. Four schools (three of which are former WAC full members: Air Force, UNLV, and Wyoming; and North Dakota) became affiliate members in men's swimming and diving in July 2013; the WAC announced on May 16, 2013 that it would reinstate the sport, which it had sponsored from 1962 to 2000.[22]
  3. Northern Colorado joined the WAC for baseball for the 2014 season (2013–14 academic year).[23] The baseball team left for the Summit League after the 2021 season,[24] but the school remains a WAC affiliate in women's swimming & diving.
  4. Sacramento State was formerly an associate member of the WAC in baseball from 1992–93 to 1995–96.
  5. Championships title totals are through Fall 2014.

Former full membersEdit

The WAC has 29 former full members.

Institution Nickname Location Founded Type Enrollment Joined Left Current Primary
Conference
United States Air Force Academy
(Air Force)
Falcons Colorado Springs,
Colorado
1954 Federal 4,413 1980 1999 Mountain West
University of Arizona Wildcats Tucson,
Arizona
1885 Public 39,236 1962 1978 Pac-12
Arizona State University Sun Devils Tempe,
Arizona
1885 Public 59,794 1962 1978 Pac-12
Boise State University Broncos Boise,
Idaho
1932 Public 22,678 2001 2011 Mountain West
Brigham Young University
(BYU)
Cougars Provo,
Utah
1875 Private 34,130 1962 1999 WCC
Division I FBS Independent
(Big 12 in 2023)
California State University, Bakersfield Roadrunners Bakersfield, California 1965 Public 10,500 2013 2020 Big West
California State University, Fresno
(Fresno State)
Bulldogs Fresno,
California
1911 Public 22,565 1992 2012 Mountain West
Colorado State University Rams Fort Collins,
Colorado
1870 Public 28,417 1968 1999 Mountain West
University of Denver Pioneers Denver,
Colorado
1864 Private 11,476 2012 2013 Summit
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Rainbow Warriors &
Rainbow Wahine
Honolulu,
Hawaii
1907 Public 20,435 1979 2012 Big West
Mountain West (football only)
University of Idaho Vandals Moscow,
Idaho
1889 Public 12,312 2005 2014 Big Sky
University of Missouri–Kansas City
(Kansas City)
Roos Kansas City, Missouri 1933 Public 16,944 2013 2020 Summit League
Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs (men's)
Lady Techsters (women's)
Ruston,
Louisiana
1894 Public 11,581 2001 2013 C-USA
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
(UNLV)
Rebels Paradise,
Nevada
1957 Public 28,203 1996 1999 Mountain West
University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack Reno,
Nevada
1874 Public 18,227 2000 2012 Mountain West
University of New Mexico Lobos Albuquerque,
New Mexico
1889 Public 35,211 1962 1999 Mountain West
Rice University Owls Houston,
Texas
1912 Private 6,082 1996 2005 C-USA
(American in 2023)
San Diego State University Aztecs San Diego,
California
1897 Public 28,789 1978 1999 Mountain West
San Jose State University Spartans San Jose,
California
1857 Public 30,448 1996 2013 Mountain West
Southern Methodist University
(SMU)
Mustangs University Park,
Texas
1911 Private 12,000 1996 2005 The American
Texas Christian University
(TCU)
Horned Frogs Fort Worth,
Texas
1873 Private 9,725 1996 2001 Big 12
University of Texas at Arlington Mavericks Arlington,
Texas
1895 Public 33,439 2012 2013 Sun Belt
University of Texas at El Paso
(UTEP)
Miners El Paso,
Texas
1914 Public 21,011 1968 2005 C-USA
University of Texas at San Antonio
(UTSA)
Roadrunners San Antonio,
Texas
1969 Public 30,474 2012 2013 C-USA
(American in 2023)
Texas State University Bobcats San Marcos,
Texas
1899 Public 34,229 2012 2013 Sun Belt
University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane Tulsa,
Oklahoma
1894 Private 4,352 1996 2005 The American
University of Utah Utes Salt Lake City,
Utah
1850 Public 32,388 1962 1999 Pac-12
Utah State University Aggies Logan,
Utah
1888 Public 28,796 2005 2013 Mountain West
University of Wyoming Cowboys & Cowgirls Laramie,
Wyoming
1866 Public 12,496 1962 1999 Mountain West

Former affiliate membersEdit

Institution Location Founded Type Enrollment Nickname Primary Conference WAC Sport(s) Joined Left
Boise State University Boise,
Idaho
1932 Public 22,678 Broncos Mountain West[fa 1] gymnastics 1990–91,
2012–13
1992–93,
2012–13
California Polytechnic State University
(Cal Poly San Luis Obispo)
San Luis Obispo,
California
1901 Public 20,186 Mustangs Big West baseball 1994–95 1995–96
California State University, Bakersfield
(Cal State Bakersfield)
Bakersfield,
California
1965 Public 8,720 Roadrunners Big West[fa 2] baseball,
women's
swimming
2012–13bs.
2012–13w.sm.
2012–13bs.
2012–13w.sm.
California State University, Fullerton
(Cal State Fullerton)
Fullerton,
California
1959 Public 38,128 Titans Big West[fa 3] gymnastics 2005–06 2010–11
California State University, Northridge
(Cal State Northridge)
Northridge,
California
1958 Public 38,310 Matadors Big Sky baseball 1992–93 1995–96
California State University, Sacramento
(Sacramento State)
Sacramento,
California
1947 Public 27,972 Hornets Big Sky[fa 4] gymnastics 2005–06 2012–13
Dallas Baptist University Dallas,
Texas
1898 Private 5,422 Patriots Lone Star
(NCAA Division II)[fa 5]
baseball 2012–13 2012–13
University of Denver Denver,
Colorado
1864 Private 11,476 Pioneers Summit[fa 6] gymnastics 2011–12 2011–12
Drury University Springfield,
Missouri
1873 Private 5,474 Panthers Great Lakes Valley
(NCAA Division II)
men's soccer 1999–2000 1999–2000
Grand Canyon University Phoenix,
Arizona
1949 Private,
For-profit
17,650 Antelopes WAC baseball 1994–95 1997–98
University of Hawaii at Hilo
(Hawaii–Hilo)
Hilo,
Hawaii
1901 Public 20,186 Vulcans Pacific West
(NCAA Division II)
baseball 1999–2000 2000–01
University of North Dakota Grand Forks,
North Dakota
1883 Public 15,250 Fighting Hawks Summit[fa 7] baseball,
men's swimming,
women's swimming
2013–14bs.
2013–14m.sm.
2011–12w.sm.
2015–16bs.
2016–17m.sm.
2016–17w.sm.
University of Northern Colorado[fa 8] Greeley,
Colorado
1889 Public 10,097 Bears Big Sky[fa 9] baseball 2013–14 2020–21
University of San Diego San Diego,
California
1949 Private 8,105 Toreros West Coast[fa 10] women's
swimming
2004–05 2009–10
Southern Utah University Cedar City,
Utah
1897 Public 8,297 Thunderbirds Big Sky[fa 11][fa 1] gymnastics 1990–91,
2005–06
1992–93,
2012–13
  1. ^ a b Neither the Big Sky Conference nor the MW sponsors women's gymnastics. Boise State and Southern Utah house that sport in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference.
  2. ^ Cal State Bakersfield was a full WAC member from 2013 to 2020.
  3. ^ Cal State Fullerton no longer sponsors women's gymnastics.
  4. ^ The Big Sky Conference does not sponsor women's gymnastics. Sacramento State houses that sport in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
  5. ^ The Dallas Baptist baseball team currently competes as a single-sport member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
  6. ^ The Summit League does not sponsor women's gymnastics. Denver houses that sport in the Big 12 Conference.
  7. ^ North Dakota no longer sponsors any of the sports it housed in the WAC.
  8. ^ Northern Colorado remains an affiliate in women's swimming & diving.
  9. ^ Northern Colorado baseball joined the Summit League after the 2021 season.
  10. ^ The WCC does not sponsor women's swimming and diving. San Diego houses that sport in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
  11. ^ Southern Utah becomes a full WAC member in July 2022.

Membership timelineEdit

Stephen F. Austin State UniversityConference USASam Houston State UniversityLamar UniversityAbilene Christian UniversityTarleton State UniversityDixie State UniversityCalifornia Baptist UniversityHouston Baptist UniversityUtah Valley UniversitySummit LeagueUniversity of Missouri–Kansas CityUniversity of Texas Rio Grande ValleyChicago State UniversityUniversity of Northern ColoradoBig West ConferenceCalifornia State University, BakersfieldDallas Baptist UniversitySeattle UniversitySun Belt ConferenceUniversity of Texas at ArlingtonSun Belt ConferenceTexas State UniversityAmerican Athletic ConferenceConference USAUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSummit LeagueUniversity of DenverUniversity of North DakotaCalifornia State University, FullertonConference USANew Mexico StateBig Sky ConferenceUniversity of IdahoMountain West ConferenceUtah State UniversityUniversity of San DiegoNorthern Arizona UniversityConference USALouisiana Tech UniversityMountain West ConferenceUniversity of Nevada, RenoUniversity of Hawaii at HiloDrury UniversityMountain West ConferenceSan Jose State UniversityAmerican Athletic ConferenceConference USAUniversity of TulsaAmerican Athletic ConferenceConference USASouthern Methodist UniversityAmerican Athletic ConferenceConference USARice UniversityBig 12 ConferenceMountain West ConferenceConference USATexas Christian UniversityMountain West ConferenceUniversity of Nevada, Las VegasGrand Canyon UniversityCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversityCalifornia State University, NorthridgeBig Sky ConferenceCalifornia State University, SacramentoMountain West ConferenceCalifornia State University, FresnoBig Sky ConferenceNCAA Division I FCS independent schoolsSouthern Utah UniversityMountain West ConferenceBoise State UniversityBig West ConferenceBoise State UniversityMountain West ConferenceUnited States Air Force AcademyBig West ConferenceUniversity of Hawaiʻi at MānoaMountain West ConferenceSan Diego State UniversityConference USAUniversity of Texas at El PasoMountain West ConferenceColorado State UniversityMountain West ConferenceUniversity of New MexicoMountain West ConferenceUniversity of WyomingPac-12 ConferenceMountain West ConferenceUniversity of UtahBig 12 ConferenceWest Coast ConferenceMountain West ConferenceBrigham Young UniversityPac-12 ConferencePac-12 ConferenceArizona State UniversityPac-12 ConferencePac-12 ConferenceUniversity of Arizona

Full members Full members (non-football) Other conference Other conference Associate Member

  • Prior to the 1996–97 season, both Air Force and Hawaii had most to all of their women's sports competing in other conferences before joining the WAC full-time with their men's sports counterparts. At that time, Air Force was in the Colorado Athletic Conference, and Hawaii was in the Big West Conference.
  • Starting in the 2021–22 season, the WAC will restart football at the FCS level.

HistoryEdit

FormationEdit

 
Arizona
Arizona State
BYU
New Mexico
Utah
Wyoming
Locations of WAC founding schools

The WAC formed out of a series of talks between Brigham Young University athletic director Eddie Kimball and other university administrators from 1958 to 1961 to form a new athletic conference that would better fit the needs and situations of certain universities which were at the time members of the Border, Skyline, and Pacific Coast Conferences. Potential member universities who were represented at the meetings included BYU, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona State, and Wyoming. While the three Washington and Oregon schools elected to stay in a revamped Pac-8 Conference that replaced the scandal-plagued PCC, the remaining six schools formed the WAC. The Border and Skyline conferences, having each lost three of their stronger members, dissolved at the end of the 1961–62 season. The charter members of the WAC were Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. New Mexico State and Utah State applied for charter membership and were turned down; they would eventually become WAC members 43 years later.

Success and first expansionEdit

The conference proved to be an almost perfect fit for the six schools from both a competitive and financial standpoint. Arizona and Arizona State, in particular, experienced success in baseball with Arizona garnering the 1963 College World Series (CWS) runner-up trophy and ASU winning the CWS in 1965, 1967, and 1969. Colorado State and Texas-El Paso (UTEP), at that time just renamed from Texas Western College, were accepted in September 1967 (joined in July 1968) to bring membership up to eight.[25][26]

With massive growth in the state of Arizona, the balance of WAC play in the 1970s became increasingly skewed in favor of the Arizona schools, who won or tied for all but two WAC football titles from 1969 onward. In the summer of 1978, the two schools left the WAC for the Pac-8, which became the Pac-10, and were replaced in the WAC by San Diego State and, one year later, Hawaii. The WAC further expanded by adding Air Force in the summer of 1980. A college football national championship won by Brigham Young in 1984 added to the WAC's reputation as one of the best NCAA Division I conferences. This nine-team line-up of the WAC defined the conference for nearly 15 years.

Second wave of expansionEdit

Fresno State expanded its athletic program in the early 1990s and was granted membership in 1992 as the nationwide trend against major college programs independent of conferences accelerated. The WAC merged with the High Country Athletic Conference, a parallel organization to the WAC for women's athletics, in 1990 to unify both men's and women's athletics under one administrative structure.

 
⇙ Hawaii
Fresno State
San Diego State
San Jose State
UNLV
Air Force
Colorado State
Wyoming
BYU
New Mexico
Utah
UTEP
Tulsa
TCU
SMU
Rice
WAC member locations during the four-pod system (1996–1998)

In 1996, the WAC expanded again, adding six schools to its ranks for a total of sixteen. Rice, TCU, and SMU joined the league from the Southwest Conference, which had disbanded. Big West Conference members San Jose State and UNLV were also admitted, as well as Tulsa from the Missouri Valley Conference.[27] Also, two WAC members for men's sports at the time, Air Force and Hawaiʻi, brought their women's sports into the WAC. With the expansion, the WAC was divided into two divisions, the Mountain and the Pacific.

To help in organizing schedules and travel for the far-flung league, the members were divided into four quadrants of four teams each, as follows:[27]

Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4
Hawaiʻi UNLV BYU Tulsa
Fresno State Air Force Utah TCU
San Diego State Colorado State New Mexico SMU
San Jose State Wyoming UTEP Rice

Quadrant one was always part of the Pacific Division, and quadrant four was always part of the Mountain Division. Quadrant two was part of the Pacific Division for 1996 and 1997 before switching to the Mountain Division in 1998, while the reverse was true for quadrant three. The scheduled fourth year of the alignment was abandoned after eight schools left to form the Mountain West Conference.[citation needed]

The division champions in football met from 1996 to 1998 in the WAC Championship Game, held at Sam Boyd Stadium (also known as the Silver Bowl) in the Las Vegas Valley.

Turbulence at the turn of the millenniumEdit

Increasingly, most of the older, pre-1996 members—particularly Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming—felt chagrin at this new arrangement. Additional concerns centered around finances, as the expanded league stretched approximately 3,900 miles (6,300 km) from Hawaiʻi to Oklahoma and covered nine states and four time zones. With such a far-flung league, travel costs became a concern. The presidents of Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming met in 1998 at Denver International Airport and agreed to split off to form a new league. The breakaway group invited old-line WAC schools New Mexico and San Diego State, and newcomer UNLV to join them in the new Mountain West Conference, which began competition in 1999.[27]

A USA Today article summed up the reasons behind the split. "With Hawaii and the Texas schools separated by about 3,900 miles and four time zones, travel costs were a tremendous burden for WAC teams. The costs, coupled with lagging revenue and a proposed realignment that would have separated rivals such as Colorado State and Air Force, created unrest among the eight defecting schools."[28][29]

BYU and Utah would later leave the MWC for the West Coast Conference and Pac-12 Conference, respectively; BYU football is an FBS independent that is scheduled to join the Big 12 Conference in 2023.

WAC in the 2000sEdit

 
⇙ Hawaii
Fresno State
San Jose State
Boise State
Louisiana Tech
Idaho
New Mexico State
Utah State
Nevada
Locations of WAC full members from 2005 through 2011

In 2000, the University of Nevada, Reno (Nevada) of the Big West joined as part of its plan to upgrade its athletic program.

TCU left for Conference USA in 2001 (it would later leave C-USA to become the ninth member of the Mountain West in 2005, and joined the Big 12 in 2012).

The Big West announced that it would drop football after the 2000 season, but four of its football-playing members (Boise State, Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State) were unwilling to drop football. Boise State was invited to join the WAC and promptly departed the Big West, while New Mexico State and Idaho joined the Sun Belt Conference (NMSU as a full member, Idaho as a "football only" member) and Utah State operated as an independent D-IA program. At the same time, Louisiana Tech (LA Tech) ended its independent Div. I-A status and also accepted an invitation to join the WAC with Boise State.

In 2005, Conference USA sought new members to replenish its ranks after losing members to the Big East, which had lost members to the ACC. Four WAC schools, former SWC schools Rice and SMU, as well as Tulsa and UTEP, joined Conference USA. In response, the WAC added Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State – all former Big West schools which left the conference in 2000 along with Boise State when that conference dropped football. The three new schools were all land grant universities, bringing the conference total to five (Nevada and Hawaiʻi).

Membership changes and the elimination of footballEdit

The decade of the 2010s began with a series of conference realignment moves that would have trickle-down effects throughout Division I football, and profoundly change the membership of the WAC. Boise State decided to move to the Mountain West Conference (MWC) for the 2011–12 season,[30] and to replace departing BYU, the MWC also recruited WAC members Fresno State and Nevada for 2012–13.[31][32] WAC commissioner Karl Benson courted several schools to replace those leaving, including the University of Montana, which declined,[33][34] as well as the University of Denver, University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and Texas State University-San Marcos, which all accepted effective 2012–13.[35]

But the resulting eastward shift of the conference's geographic center led Hawaiʻi to reduce travel expenses by becoming a football-only member of the MWC and joining the California-based Big West Conference for all other sports.[36][37] Further invitations were then issued by the WAC to Seattle University[38] and the University of Texas at Arlington.[39] These changes meant that the conference would have 10 members for 2012–13,[40] seven of which sponsored football, and Benson announced that the WAC planned to add two additional football-playing members to begin competition in 2013.[41] A further boost came when Boise State decided to join the Big East in football, and return to the WAC in most other sports, as of the 2013–14 academic year.[42] So by the end of 2011, the WAC seemed to have weathered the latest round of conference changes, and once again reinvented itself for the future.

 
Chicago State
Grand Canyon
New Mexico State
Seattle
UTRGV
Utah Valley
California Baptist
Dixie State
Tarleton State
Locations of current WAC full members: Blue=current

But from this seemingly strong position, early 2012 brought forth a series of moves that shook the conference to its very core, beginning with Utah State and San Jose State accepting offers to join the MWC.[43] Four similar announcements followed with UTSA and Louisiana Tech jumping to Conference USA, plus Texas State and UT Arlington heading to the Sun Belt Conference, all as of 2013–14.[44][45][46][47][48][49] Boise State also canceled plans to rejoin the WAC, instead opting to place its non-football sports in the Big West Conference, before eventually deciding to simply remain in the MWC.[50][51] These changes left the WAC's viability as a Division I football conference in grave doubt. The two remaining football-playing members, New Mexico State and Idaho, began making plans to compete in future seasons as FBS Independents;[52][53] they ultimately spent only the 2013 season as independents, rejoining their one-time football home of the Sun Belt as football-only members in 2014.[54]

In order to rebuild, as well as forestall further defections, the conference was forced to add two schools—Utah Valley University and CSU Bakersfield—which were invited in October 2012 to join the WAC in 2013–14,[55] but this did not prevent two more members from leaving. Denver decided to take most of its athletic teams to The Summit League as of the 2013–14 season,[56] shortly after Idaho opted to return all of its non-football sports to the Big Sky Conference in 2014–15.[57] The conference responded over the next two months by adding Grand Canyon University,[58] Chicago State University,[59] and the University of Texas-Pan American.[60][61] Then, in February 2013, the WAC announced the University of Missouri–Kansas City would join in the summer of 2013 as well.[62] These changes would put the conference's membership at eight members by 2014 with only one, New Mexico State, having been in the WAC just three years earlier. Due to losing the majority of its football-playing members, the WAC would stop sponsoring the sport after the 2012–13 season, thereby becoming a non-football conference.[1]

In 2013, the University of Texas System announced that Texas–Pan American would merge with the University of Texas at Brownsville; the new institution, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), began operation for the 2015–16 school year. UTRGV inherited UTPA's athletic program and WAC membership.

In January 2017, California Baptist University announced it would transition from NCAA Division II and join the WAC in 2018.[63]

In November 2017, Cal State Bakersfield announced it would accept an invitation to the Big West and join its new conference in 2020.

In January 2019, Dixie State University announced it would move its athletics to Division I and join the WAC in 2020.

In June 2019, the University of Missouri–Kansas City announced it would leave the WAC to join the Summit League in 2020;[64] this announcement came shortly before the rebranding of its athletic program as the Kansas City Roos.[65]

In September 2019, Tarleton State University of Division II announced that it would move to Division I and join the WAC in 2020.[66]

2021–2022 membership changes and reinstatement of footballEdit

 
Grand Canyon
New Mexico State
Seattle
UTRGV
Utah Valley
California Baptist
Utah Tech
Tarleton
Abilene Christian
Lamar
Sam Houston
Stephen F. Austin
Southern Utah
UIW
Locations of WAC full members beginning in 2022 (Blue: Pre-2021, Red: Joined in 2021; Yellow: Joining in 2022)

On January 14, 2021, the Western Athletic Conference announced its intention to reinstate football as a conference-sponsored sport at the FCS level, as well as the addition of five new members to the conference in all sports, including football, at a press conference held at the NRG Center in Houston, Texas.[2] The new members announced included four Southland Conference members from Texas in Abilene Christian University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, and Stephen F. Austin State University, which would soon be dubbed the "Texas Four",[4] plus Southern Utah University from the Big Sky Conference. The conference also announced that it would most likely add another member that fielded a football team at a later date. While the WAC originally announced that all new members would join on July 1, 2022, commissioner Jeff Hurd later said that the arrival of the Texas Four "was expedited" to July 1, 2021.[3] The conference officially confirmed this on January 21, 2021, adding that the relaunch of football was moved forward to fall 2021. The conference also confirmed media reports that the Southland had expelled the Texas Four after they announced their departure.[67][68] Southern Utah's entry remains on the 2022 schedule.[3]

During the aforementioned press conference, Hurd also announced that the WAC would split into two divisions for all sports except football and men's and women's basketball. One division will consist of the six Texas schools (the Texas Four plus existing members Tarleton and UTRGV).[2]

Also on January 14, 2021, news broke that UTRGV, a non-football playing member of the conference, had committed to create an FCS football program by 2024.[69] The program would most likely compete as part of the newly-reinstated WAC football conference.

The WAC's planned reestablishment of a football conference at the FCS level has also been accompanied by speculation that the conference intends to eventually move its football league back up to FBS in the future, possibly by 2030.[70] Later that same month, the WAC moved the start of their FCS sponsorship of football to Fall 2021, with media reports indicating that the University of Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky University, and Jacksonville State University would be added as football affiliates for 2021. The three schools were set to join the ASUN Conference in July 2021; that league plans to add FCS football, but not until at least 2022.[71][72] The entry of the three incoming ASUN members into the new football league was officially confirmed at a February 23, 2021 ASUN press conference. These schools joined the Texas Four in a round-robin schedule officially branded interchangeably as the "ASUN–WAC Challenge" and "WAC–ASUN Challenge"; the two conferences proposed an amendment to NCAA bylaws that would allow their partnership (and presumably any others of its kind) to receive an immediate FCS playoff berth. Dixie State and Tarleton are included in alliance members' schedules, but are not eligible for the FCS playoffs until completing their Division I transitions in 2024; at least for 2021, games involving those two schools do not count in alliance standings, although both are included in the separate WAC league table.[73][74]

On the same day as the WAC's initial announcement, Chicago State University announced it would leave the WAC in June 2022.[75] Chicago State was originally added in 2013 along with the University of Missouri–Kansas City, originally with an intention for both institutions to serve as anchors for a midwestern-centered division for the conference.[76] No other universities in the region were added to the WAC, and UMKC (now known for athletic purposes as Kansas City) departed the conference in 2020 for its former home of the Summit League. Chicago State is currently the only WAC member east of Texas, and does not field a football team. Chicago State's departure would render Seattle University as the only WAC member institution not geographically located in the southwestern United States.

CommissionersEdit

Years Commissioners
1962–1968 Paul Brechler
1968–1971 Wiles Hallock
1971–1980 Stan Bates
1980–1994 Joseph Kearney
1994–2012 Karl Benson
2012–present Jeff Hurd

SportsEdit

The Western Athletic Conference currently sponsors championship competition in 10 men's and 10 women's NCAA-sanctioned sports, with football as the newest addition in fall 2021, initially as the ASUN–WAC (or WAC–ASUN) Challenge.[77] In addition to the three ASUN members that are de facto football associates, 10 other schools are currently associate members in four sports.

Teams in Western Athletic Conference competition
Sport Men's Women's
Baseball
13
Basketball
13
13
Cross country
13
13
Football
Golf
13
12
Soccer
12
12
Softball
11
Swimming & Diving
6
7
Tennis
6
11
Track and field (indoor)
7
11
Track and field (outdoor)
12
13
Volleyball
13
  1. ^ 4 full members and 3 associates eligible for the FCS playoffs; two transitional members included in scheduling but not eligible for the FCS playoffs.

Men's sponsored sports by schoolEdit

Departing members in red.

School Baseball Basketball Cross
Country
Football Golf Soccer Swimming
& Diving
Tennis Track & Field
(Indoor)
Track & Field
(Outdoor)
Total
WAC Sports
Abilene Christian  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y 8
California Baptist  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y 7
Chicago State  N  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y 7
Dixie State  Y  Y  Y  Y[a]  Y  Y  N  N  N  N 6
Grand Canyon  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 9
Lamar  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y 8
New Mexico State  Y  Y  Y  N[b]  Y  N  N  Y  N  N 5
Sam Houston  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  N  Y  Y 7
Seattle  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 9
Stephen F. Austin  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  N  Y  Y 7
Tarleton  Y  Y  Y  Y[a]  N  N  N  N  Y  Y 6
UTRGV  Y  Y  Y  N[c]  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y 8
Utah Valley  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y 7
Totals 12+1[d] 13 13 6+3[e] 12 7+5[f] 3+3[g] 7 11 12 84+12
Future members
Incarnate Word  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Southern Utah  N  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  N  Y  Y 6
  1. ^ a b Dixie State and Tarleton are not competing for the 2021 WAC–ASUN football title.
  2. ^ New Mexico State plays football as an FBS independent.
  3. ^ UTRGV plans to add football no later than 2024.
  4. ^ Affiliate Sacramento State.
  5. ^ Affiliates Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, and Jacksonville State, all of which are expected to leave in 2022 for the new ASUN football league.
  6. ^ Affiliates Air Force, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, San Jose State, and UNLV.
  7. ^ Affiliates Air Force, UNLV, and Wyoming.
Men's varsity sports not sponsored by the Western Athletic Conference which are played by WAC schools

Future members in gray.

School Fencing[a] Volleyball Water Polo Wrestling
California Baptist No No WWPA Independent[b]
Grand Canyon No MPSF No No
Incarnate Word Independent No No No
Utah Valley No No No Big 12
  1. ^ The NCAA classifies fencing as a coeducational sport, awarding a single coeducational team championship, though all bouts are between members of the same sex. UIW, the only current or future WAC member to sponsor the sport, fields both men's and women's squads.
  2. ^ Scheduled to join the Big 12 Conference as a wrestling affiliate in 2022.

Women's sponsored sports by schoolEdit

Departing members in red.

School Basketball Cross
Country
Golf Soccer Softball Swimming
& Diving
Tennis Track & Field
(Indoor)
Track & Field
(Outdoor)
Volleyball Total
WAC Sports
Abilene Christian  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 9
California Baptist  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y 8
Chicago State  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 8
Dixie State  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y 9
Grand Canyon  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Lamar  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
New Mexico State  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Sam Houston  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Seattle  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Stephen F. Austin  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Tarleton  Y  Y  Y  N [a]  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 8
UTRGV  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y  Y 8
Utah Valley  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y 8
Totals 13 13 12 12 11 5+2[b] 11 11 13 13 114+2
Future members
Incarnate Word  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y 10
Southern Utah  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y 8
  1. ^ Tarleton will add women's soccer in 2022.[78]
  2. ^ Affiliates Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the Western Athletic Conference which are played by WAC schools

Departing members in red; future members in gray.

School Beach Volleyball Bowling Fencing[a] Gymnastics Rowing Water Polo
California Baptist No No No No No GCC
Grand Canyon Independent No No No No No
Incarnate Word No No Independent No No No
Sam Houston No Independent No No No No
Seattle No No No No WIRA No
Southern Utah No No No MRGC No No
Stephen F. Austin Independent Independent No No No No
  1. ^ The NCAA classifies fencing as a coeducational sport, awarding a single coeducational team championship, though all bouts are between members of the same sex. UIW, the only current or future WAC member to sponsor the sport, fields both men's and women's squads.

In addition to the above, Incarnate Word fields a team in the non-NCAA aquatic discipline of artistic swimming (aka synchronized swimming).

FootballEdit

The WAC sponsored football from its founding in 1962 through the 2012 season. However, the defection of all but two football-playing schools to other conferences caused the conference to drop sponsorship after fifty-one years.[79]

ReinstatementEdit

On January 14, 2021, the WAC announced its intention to reinstate football as a conference-sponsored sport at the FCS level, as well as the addition of five new members to the conference in all sports, including football.[80] The new members announced include the "Texas Four" of Abilene Christian University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State University, and Stephen F. Austin State University, then members of the Southland Conference, along with Southern Utah University, currently of the Big Sky Conference. Originally, all schools were planned to join in July 2022, but the entry of the Texas Four was moved to July 2021 after the Southland expelled its departing members.[67] The WAC also announced that it would most likely add another football-playing institution at a later date.

On the same day, news broke that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, a non-football playing WAC member, had committed to create an FCS football program by 2024.[81] The program will most likely compete as part of the newly-reinstated WAC football conference.

The WAC ultimately partnered with the ASUN Conference to reestablish its football league, with the Texas Four being joined by three incoming ASUN members for at least the fall 2021 season in what it calls the ASUN–WAC (or WAC–ASUN) Challenge.[73][74] The Challenge is abbreviated as "AQ7", as the top finisher of the seven teams will be an automatic qualifier for the FCS postseason.[82]

The WAC has been speculated to move back up to FBS in the future following the reestablishment of the football conference at the FCS level.[83]

Men's basketballEdit

Team First
Season
All-Time
Record
All-Time
Win %
NCAA Tournament
Appearances
NCAA Tournament
Record
Arena Head Coach
New Mexico State 1905 1329–1018–2 .566 18 10–20 Pan American Center Chris Jans
Seattle 1946 978–874 .528 11 10–13 Redhawk Center Jim Hayford
Grand Canyon 2013 103-58 .639 1 0–1 GCU Arena Bryce Drew
Utah Valley 2004[84] 234–194 .547 0 0–0 UCCU Center Mark Madsen
UTRGV 1968 599-804 .427 0 0–0 UTRGV Fieldhouse Matt Figger
California Baptist 2018 50-35 .588 0 0–0 CBU Events Center Rick Croy
Tarleton State 2020 10-10 .500 0 0–0 Wisdom Gymnasium Billy Gillispie
Dixie State 2020 8-13 .381 0 0–0 Burns Arena Jon Judkins

WAC tournament

Rivalries

Men's basketball rivalries involving WAC teams include:

Teams Meetings Record Series Leader Current Streak
New Mexico State New Mexico 208 95–113 New Mexico New Mexico State Won 2
New Mexico State UTEP 200 102–98 New Mexico State New Mexico State Won 6
Dixie State Utah Valley[85] 2 1-1 Series Tied Dixie State Won 1

Awards

Women's basketballEdit

Team First
Season
All-Time
Record
All-Time
Win %
NCAA Tournament
Appearances
NCAA Tournament
Record
Arena Head Coach
New Mexico State 1973 437–406 .518 4 0–4 Pan American Center Mark Trakh
Seattle 1978 . 1 0–1 Redhawk Center Suzy Barcomb

WAC tournament

Rivalries

Women's basketball rivalries involving WAC teams include:

Teams Meetings Record Series Leader Current Streak

BaseballEdit

The WAC has claimed seven NCAA baseball national championships. The most recent WAC national champion is the 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs baseball team.

WAC tournament

ChampionshipsEdit

Current championsEdit

Source:[86][87]

  • For the sports in which the WAC recognizes both regular-season and tournament champions:
    • (RS) indicates regular-season champion.
    • (T) indicates tournament champion.
  • For other sports, only a tournament champion is recognized.
  • Champions from a previous school year are indicated with the calendar year of their title.
Season Sport Men's champion Women's champion
Fall 2021 Cross country California Baptist Utah Valley
Soccer Grand Canyon (RS)
Air Force (T, 2020)
Stephen F. Austin (Southwest, RS)
Grand Canyon (West, RS)
Grand Canyon (T)
Volleyball New Mexico State (RS, spring 2021[a])
Utah Valley (T, spring 2021)
Winter 2021–22 Indoor Track & Field[b] Grand Canyon (2020) New Mexico State (2020)
Swimming & Diving UNLV (2021) Northern Arizona (2021)
Basketball Grand Canyon, Utah Valley (RS, 2021)
Grand Canyon (T, 2021)
California Baptist (RS & T, 2021)
Spring 2022 Golf New Mexico State (2021) New Mexico State (2021)
Tennis Grand Canyon, New Mexico State (RS, 2021)
Grand Canyon (T, 2021)
Grand Canyon (RS & T, 2021)
Softball New Mexico State (RS, 2021)
Seattle (T, 2021)
Outdoor Track & Field Grand Canyon (2021) Grand Canyon (2021)
Baseball California Baptist, Grand Canyon (RS, 2021)
Grand Canyon (T, 2021)
  1. ^ The WAC held its 2020–21 women's volleyball season in spring 2021 instead of its normal fall schedule.
  2. ^ The indoor track & field championships were not held in the 2020–21 school year.

National championshipsEdit

The following teams have won NCAA national championships while being a member of the WAC:

The WAC has also produced one AP national champion in football:

The following teams won AIAW (and forerunner DGWS) women's national championships while their universities were members of the WAC:

  • Arizona State (15) – swimming (8), badminton (4), softball (2), golf (1)
  • Utah (3) – cross country (Div. II), gymnastics, skiing
  • UTEP (1) – indoor track and field

FacilitiesEdit

Departing members highlighted in red; future members in gray.

School Football stadium Capacity Basketball arena Capacity Soccer stadium Capacity Softball park Capacity Baseball park Capacity
Abilene Christian Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium 12,000 Moody Coliseum 4,600 Elmer Gray Stadium 1,000 Poly Wells Field 1,000 Crutcher Scott Field 4,500
California Baptist Non-football school CBU Events Center 5,050[88] CBU Soccer Field N/A John C. Funk Stadium 500[89] James W. Totman Stadium 800[89]
Central Arkansas Estes Stadium 10,000 Football-only member
Chicago State Non-football school Jones Convocation Center 7,000 Kroc Stadium 500 Non-softball school Non-baseball school[90]
Dixie State Greater Zion Stadium 10,000[91] Burns Arena 4,779[92] Greater Zion Stadium 10,000 Karl Brooks Field N/A Bruce Hurst Field 2,500[93]
Eastern Kentucky Roy Kidd Stadium 20,000 Football-only member
Grand Canyon Non-football school GCU Arena 7,000[94] GCU Stadium 2,800 seats
6,000 cap.
GCU Softball Stadium 300[95] Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark 1,500
Incarnate Word Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium 6,000 McDermott Convocation Center 2,000 Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium 6,000 Cardinals Field 250 Sullivan Field 1,000
Jacksonville State JSU Stadium 24,000 Football-only member
Lamar Provost Umphrey Stadium 16,000 Montagne Center 10,080 Lamar Soccer Complex 500 Lamar Softball Complex 467 Vincent-Beck Stadium 3,500
New Mexico State Plays FBS football; see NCAA Division I FBS independent schools Pan American Center 12,482[96] Aggie Soccer Field 1,253 NMSU Softball Complex 1,050 Presley Askew Field 1,000
Sam Houston Bowers Stadium 12,593 Bernard Johnson Coliseum 6,110 Pritchett Field 2,100 Bearkat Softball Complex 400 Don Sanders Stadium 1,163
Seattle Non-football school Climate Pledge Arena
Redhawk Center
18,100
999
Championship Field 650 Logan Field at Seattle University Park 250 Bannerwood Park 700[97]
Southern Utah Eccles Coliseum 8,500 America First Event Center 5,300 Thunderbird Soccer Field 600 Kathryn Berg Field N/A Non-baseball school
Stephen F. Austin Homer Bryce Stadium 14,575 William R. Johnson Coliseum 7,203 SFA Soccer Complex 400 SFA Softball Field 750 Jaycees Field 1,000
Tarleton Memorial Stadium 10,000 Wisdom Gym 2,400[98] To be announced; adding women's soccer in 2022 Tarleton Softball Complex 500[99] Cecil Ballow Baseball Complex 750[100]
UTRGV Non-football school; plans to add football no later than 2024 UTRGV Fieldhouse 2,500[101] UTRGV Soccer and Track & Field Complex[102] 1,555 Non-softball school UTRGV Baseball Stadium 4,000
Utah Valley Non-football school UCCU Center 8,500 Clyde Field 1,000 Wolverine Field 500 UCCU Ballpark 5,000
School Soccer stadium Capacity Baseball park Capacity
Affiliate members
Air Force USAFA Soccer Stadium 1,000 Soccer-only member
Houston Baptist Sorrels Field 500 Soccer-only member
Incarnate Word Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium 6,000 Soccer-only member
UNLV Peter Johann Memorial Field 2,500 Soccer-only member
Sacramento State Baseball-only member John Smith Field* 1,200
San Jose State Spartan Soccer Field Archived 2017-04-25 at the Wayback Machine 500[103] Soccer-only member

AwardsEdit

Commissioner's Cup

The WAC awards its Commissioner's Cup to the school that performs the best in each of the conference's 19 men's and women's championships.

Joe Kearney Award

Named in honor of former WAC commissioner Dr. Joseph Kearney, the awards are given annually to the top male and female WAC athlete. The various WAC member institutions Athletics Directors select the male award winner, while the WAC member institutions Senior Women's Administrators choose the female honoree.

Stan Bates Award

The award is named in honor of former WAC Commissioner Stan Bates and honors the WAC's top male and female scholar-athletes, recognizing the recipients’ athletic and academic accomplishments. In addition, the awards carry a $3,000 postgraduate scholarship.

MediaEdit

WAC Digital NetworkEdit

In 2014–15, the WAC initiated a new digital network to give fans high quality streaming internet access to many of its regular season games and postseason championships including volleyball, soccer, swimming and diving, basketball, softball and baseball. [104]

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