Report: Glimmer of Hope for WAC Comes From FCS East Coast, 2014

Updated, 2:31 p.m. PT: Mark Selig of Dukes of JMU reports via Twitter that WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd denies the veracity of a possible James Madison-WAC partnership.

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune reported live from the Western Athletic Conference media day Thursday that the sputtering league is likely shutting down football in 2013. That’s not news. But what is news is that the WAC could relaunch in 2014 with an influx of members moving up from the Championship Subdivision.

James Madison and Jacksonville State were specifically mentioned as leaders of a contingent considering making the transition to FBS and breathing life into the WAC. The NCAA requires conferences to have eight members. This year, it has seven but was granted an exemption before the season. But in 2013, five exit: Louisiana Tech and UT San Antonio to Conference USA; San Jose State and Utah State to the Mountain West; and Texas State to the Sun Belt.

That leaves just Idaho and New Mexico State, who earlier this week were told to by the Mountain West to consider “Plan B”. The two programs are more likely on Plan Y right now, with the unfortunate Plan Z of becoming independents looming in 2013. With meager home attendance gates and no television contracts, UI and NMSU could spend the season as vagabonds.

This revelation of a potential FCS migration might be their life raft, however. JSU and JMU each finished in the top 10 of attendance among FCS programs last season.

Georgia Southern opted to remain in FCS and the Southern Conference earlier this month after mild flirtation with the Sun Belt. GSU is a standard bearer in the subdivision, and has a devoted fan base. The Eagles’ positives are numerous and obvious for the WAC. However, if GSU passed on the more stable Sun Belt, the WAC’s chances of wooing it up a level seem shaky.

The WAC twice dipped into the Southland during conference realignment, adding Texas State and UTSA (albeit briefly). Other SLC members were rumored targets of the WAC in early 2011, including last year’s FCS runner-up Sam Houston State. Lamar revived its football program in 2010, and has attracted impressive crowds through two seasons.

Houston Baptist is starting football, with a target start date of 2014. The Huskies are slated for SLC membership, but UTSA bypassed its spot in the Southland to jump to the WAC.

All WAC expansion since Texas State and UTSA came aboard has been with programs devoid of football. UT-Arlington, now bound for the Sun Belt, seemed wishy-washy on the prospect of relaunching the sport, before abandoning the idea altogether.

Utah Valley, Denver and Seattle do not field football programs.

Is it too late to get the ball rolling on reinstating football at Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State?

Topics: Conference Realignment, Georgia Southern, Houston Baptist, Idaho, Jacksonville State, James Madison, Lamar, New Mexico State, Sam Houston State, Texas State, UTSA

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