Saturday, April 28, 2012

...And C-USA strikes first blood

Today's announcement about C-USA is a clear sign, in my mind, that the announcement that AQ status has gone away has soured the relationship between MWC and C-USA and C-USA is now looking after their own interests.  If things were all peachy with the two leagues I would have expected for the announcement of both leagues' expansion moves would come at the same time.  I also think that going after UTSA first is a sign that C-USA has abandoned their collaboration with MWC--landing UTSA (and presumably North Texas shortly)  shores up C-USA's western flank.  The MWC will no longer be able to get a foothold in eastern or central Texas and since C-USA has all of the east Texas markets in their camp UTEP isn't going to be flirting with a westward move any time soon.  The MWC's current best expansion candidates in or near their footprint are Utah St and San Jose St---after that the tv markets and teams on the field get pretty shabby.  Meanwhile, C-USA has ample expansion targets and can quickly get to 12 and their own title game without the MWC involved.  FIU and North Texas are virtually locks for spots #10 and #11 and LA Tech or Charlotte will get #12.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a silver lining in all of this realignment and that is if between the MWC, C-USA, and the SBC, if enough members are pulled from the WAC it could collapse that league and leave Boise homeless and thus the Broncos, and by extension the Aztecs, will have to return to the MWC and abandon their Big East ambitions.

  • The loss of UTSA makes 10 WAC members (6 for football)
  • MWC taking Utah St and San Jose St makes 8 WAC members (4 for football)
  • If the MWC is astute and sees the benefits of taking Denver to balance out Hawaii that makes 7 
  • If LA Tech is indeed part of C-USA's expansion to 12 that leaves 6 WAC members (3 for football)
  • Now the SBC gets involved:  Texas St and New Mexico St are both real possibilities (La Tech too if they are still around).  UT-A might be in the mix too if they want a non-fb member but I think they pass and take Charlotte as a fb-only member provided C-USA didn't tale them in lieu of LA Tech.  I'll lean on the side of caution and say they decide to take 2 WAC schools leaving just 4 WAC members
  • The WAC needs to maintain 7 members and theoretically the conference could stay alive by adding Utah Valley, Cal St Bakersfield, and UT-Pan Am but I don't think that will work.   At this point any football member left has to be really nervous and thinking FCS doesn't look so bad. Idaho has to be considering the Big Sky.  If NMSU and Texas St the Southland is there to catch them.  Also I think at this point UT-A would also be looking to go back to the Southland too--there is even a spot left open for them.
  • At least one school bails and Boise no longer has a conference.  The MWC gets them back and the ridiculousness that is conference realignment finally subsides.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Conference Dominoes: A-10 and CAA Edition

One of the most unfortunate things about big conferences raiding lesser ones is that it causes a ripple effect through college athletics and ultimately the weaker, fledgling conferences get screwed.  Let's play a game of Conference Dominoes shall we?

Big East raids Atlantic 10 for Temple
This move leaves the A-10 at an unstable 13 by taking the gem at the center of the conference footprint.  Internet rumors have it that the A-10 wants to shift their core of their footprint south, taking VCU and George Mason from the CAA.  Additionally, to placate the Midwestern schools, Butler would be added to make 16, thus depriving the Horizon League of their poster child.  The CAA and Horizon will no doubt react by raiding the conferences beneath them on the food chain:

As a hybrid league in the Mid Atlantic region their are a few ways the CAA could proceed.  Approaching Appalachian St makes sense but I think if Happy Appy moves its to the Sunbelt and not to another FCS conference.  The next choice is going north and approaching America East members like Stony Brook, Boston University (no football), and full membership for Maine and New Hampshire.  The loss of 3 or more members to this 9 member league is likely crippling as NJIT is the only school in the region who is not comfortable in their current state.  Football only membership for Fordham is another avenue that could be explored that would leave the AmEast less damaged but Fordham football isn't that great.  The other move they could make would be towards the south by raiding the Big South for Coastal Carolina and/or Liberty.  While this move would certainly not kill the entire conference it would certainly kill the fledgling 7-member football league they created.  Stony Brook's departure for the CAA would be potentially devastating to both the AmEast and the Big South.  The AmEast would be reduced to 8 core members, fewer if others leave as well while for the Big South, Stony Brook is that key 7th football school that gives the league a FCS playoff autobid.

Meanwhile, in the Butler-less Horizon, Oakland of the Summit League has been called upon to replace the Bulldogs thus dropping that conference to 8.  This would require the Summit to take North Dakota, and hope the Missouri Valley Football Conference will be willing to add an 11th member, or hope the Big Sky will be content with keeping Fighting Sioux football for the time being.  The other option is the horrid Chicago St Cougars who the Summit already kicked out once beforeback when the league was called the Mid-Continent.  Going down and scooping a school like UM-St Louis out of DII is also on the table too but regardless, this is a league that has recently lost 3 schools to other conferences and had a fourth drop to DIII.

As a result of the big boys jockeying for position the A-10 will take a hit and in turn so will the Horizon and CAA.  In turn, the Summit will have to admit inferior members to stay cohesive and the Big South football and the entire AmEast Conference will be on the brink of collapse if not destroyed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

NHL Expansion and Relocation

I've been meaning to tackle this subject for a while.  First off I think the NHL should aim to get to 32 franchises  so it can balance the four conference alignment that has been proposed but delayed by the Players Association.    First off, I think hockey in the desert has clearly failed and the NHL needs to give up and pull out of Phoenix.  Yes, its a huge media market but they put the new stadium in the suburbs and that clearly isn't working out for the Coyotes.  The other team I'm concerned about as it sits in its current location is the New York Islanders.  That arena is as old as dirt and the idiots in charge of designing the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn were foolish enough to not design it such that it can accommodate an NHL-sized crowd in a hockey configuration.  The person who did this should be fired as it likely cost the arena owners millions by making it impossible for the Islanders to be secondary tenants.  Unless the Islanders can find the money for a new arena I think they are going to have to start exploring other cities as options.

Now let's look at some of the candidates:

Seattle makes a ton of sense.  Instant rivalry with Vancouver in a huge media market.  There is even a group in place ready to build an arena if they can secure an NBA franchise for Seattle and a sister ownership group willing to own an NHL franchise that would share the facility.

Quebec City--I think they are going to ultimately going to get the Coyotes.  Bringing a team back to Canada, even in a smallish market I think would be a huge success.

After that it gets a little murky.  Milwaukee sounds like a good destination but their isn't a facility to hold them and I think southern Wisconsin is pretty solid Blackhawks country.  Kansas City has an arena in place but I would hardly call that city a hockey town--they want the NBA to come.  Anywhere in Southern Ontario would be a sure fire win (not to mention it would give the Leafs an incentive to field a better team) but the Leafs and Sabres would likely block any infringement on their territory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

MWC and C-USA: Is the MWC getting played or are they playing C-USA?

At first glance, the cooperation between the MWC and C-USA seems to be a fairly mutually beneficial endeavor.  If it's to be presumed that in their pact to cooperate and stay out of each other's way that in the next few months the MWC will claim Utah St and San Jose St while the C-USA has dibs on North Texas and FIU.  From a distance it looks like both leagues are picking up two big tv markets and that the move is relatively even for the leagues.  Closer examination reveals that it C-USA who is winning big because of the deeper implications that this move has.  C-USA gains Texas hegemony--sleeping giant UTSA sit firmly in their domain and C-USA will have the right of first refusal with the Roadrunners.  Why is a program that has played one year of football such a big deal?  UTSA has a massive stadium, the Alamo Dome, they'll be the biggest show in town in the fall, and they already averaged 35,521 fans a game playing a crappy schedule of DII's, NAIA's and a smattering of FCS programs.  To give you a scope of what that attendance figure means, they outdrew every Sunbelt and WAC school and every school in the C-USA and MWC except for Air Force and East Carolina.  They also managed to still draw that many fans despite all of their home games being televised regionally by the Longhorn Network.  Also, as the biggest show in town, they will command a significantly larger share of San Antonio tv market, the 36th largest in the US, than the other four expansion schools will in their markets.

Additionally, the MWC is effectively hemmed in expansion-wise.  New Mexico St and Idaho are the only additional FBS programs in their conference footprint and neither one of those programs are very exciting.  Last year NMSU barely met minimum FBS attendance requirements drawing an average of 15,138 while Idaho, in their 16,000 seat Kibbie Dome failed to meet the 15,000 mark drawing an average of only 11,980.  C-USA on the other hand has ample expansion opportunities, the aforementioned UTSA, three schools in Louisiana, two in Alabama, and one in the following states: Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida.  And that's not counting the strong FCS programs in the south that have the stated goal of FBS football.  It seems that the MWC has stunted their own growth.  If this partnership was truly about helping both leagues than the MWC should have gotten concessions from C-USA that would have given them a Texas presence, replacing the lost TCU program and if C-USA refused they should have tried to pry UTEP away from them and offer North Texas and UTSA membership in order to claim the Lone Star State.

I am hoping that the MWC really wasn't this foolish and that in fact it was a calculated risk to make their league stronger than C-USA.  Here is the scenario I think they were trying to achieve:  1) the loss of SJSU and Utah St destabilizes an already fragile WAC, 2) the remaining schools are reactive, the Sunbelt extends LA Tech, UTSA, and Texas St a life raft and they take it, UT Arlington gets to go along for the ride to to balance out UALR's lack of football 3) the only programs remaining in the WAC are Idaho, NMSU, Denver, Seattle, and Boise St,  at this point a few different things can happen that will bring about the MWC's desired result: 3a) Idaho and/or NMSU decide to move to a FCS conference (BSC) or SBC, 3b) the WCC bails out Denver and Seattle,   3c) the MWC offers Denver or Seattle membership, taking Hawaii's slot in Olympic sports.  If any of these happen the WAC is done.  Should all of those schools stay for some crazy reason they could try rebuilding but the only programs out west available are Utah Valley and Cal St Bakersfield and that still only brings their overall total to 7, 1 shy of NCAA requirements.  The end goal result is still the same, Boise St, and, by association San Diego St, have no choice but to come home to the MWC because Boise no longer has a home for their Olympic sports (unless the Big Sky lets them in).  If this should play out, the the MWC walks away as the big winner, having a far superior 12 team league than C-USA.

One of the questions surrounding this gambit to bring back Boise and San Diego St is what price is the MWC willing to pay to get them back?  Would they be willing to take Idaho and New Mexico St to ensure a WAC collapse?  What happens if you do add these teams you don't really want and then Boise gets the Big Sky to let them mooch off of them?

In many ways the illustration I made is essentially the Perfect Storm.  The WAC is the Rasputin of college athletic conferences because it simply refuses to die.  This plan could go wrong in so many places--the SBC might be more cautious and not take in 4 of the 11 refugees as I laid out. The WAC schools left might circle the wagons and try to hold things together.  Idaho and New Mexico St could foolishly refuse to admit that they can't exist as FBS independents in this environment.  Maybe out of desperation they go outside their footprint to pick up non-fb independents to get to the magic number of 8.  It's hard to tell if the WAC can be damaged enough to force Boise to come home.

April 28th Edit--- C-USA inviting UTSA, a team I saw sitting in the SBC for a few years maturing their program before getting a call up to C-USA further speeds up the WAC's demise.  I now see New Mexico St getting the SBC slot I previously gave to UTSA.  It also looks as if C-USA wants to go to 12 rather than the 10 I expected and I think that LA Tech gets the 12th spot (FIU and N Texas getting 10 and 11).  This would theoretically put the WAC at just 3 members: Seattle, Idaho, and Boise St---far too few to try and rebuild. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Atlantic Ten and Colonial Athletic Association--two midmajors just trying to hang with the big boys

These two high midmajor conferences have much in common.  Both leagues have highly competitive basketball and are primarily made up of schools on the eastern seaboard.  Where these conferences differ is that the A-10 gets a lot more respect and far more respect than their brethren in the CAA.  In recent years it almost always seems that the team most deserving of an at-large bid to the dance to get left out comes from this league as the case in 2012 when St Bonaventure's victory in the A-10 tourney final cost Drexel a trip to the dance.  The CAA also differs somewhat in that it plays FCS football, albeit with many associate members from other conferences.

The loss of Temple by the A-10 means that now the contagion that is conference realignment has spread to the non-football conferences.  The A-10 as of yet has been cautious about expansion and hasn't been vocal about their plans but the internet rumor out there is that they are looking to go to 16 by adding Butler, VCU, and George Mason.  All three are darling Cinderella's that made it to the Final Four in the past decade and while I think the later two are good moves I disagree with the inclusion of Butler.  From what I've heard the midwestern schools (Xavier, Dayton, and St Louis) want a fourth Midwestern team but what I don't think the A-10 is realizing is the context of the Bulldogs' two-year long Cinderella story.  Indiana was under sanctions from the NCAA and thus their was a power vacuum in the basketball-crazy Hoosier State. They had a special coach in Brad Stevens and the leadership and performance of a few diamonds in the rough that the major programs overlooked such as Gordon Haywood.  They have also been playing in the Horizon where the competition and travel is far less rigorous than in the A-10.  Also, if you read my post on the potential split of the Big East and the creation of a Catholic League, the three Midwestern schools were all on my list of schools likely to be added with Xavier being a certain lock.  Why expand to accommodate members who are going to leave as soon as a better offer comes?  Personally, I think the A-10 would be better off only adding one school and holding at 14 for the time being or, if they insist on going to 16, picking up Hofstra or Drexel.  

As for the CAA, this conference is starting to bleed members.  Georgia St's departure will drop this league down to 11, and only 5 of those full members sponsor FCS football.  Defections by VCU and George Mason would drop the league to 9.  I think FCS football has to be a priority even though full members Delaware, Old Dominion, and James Madison have FBS aspirations.  Prying away Appalachian St from the SoCon would be a huge coup if the Mountaineers were interested.  Charlotte as a full member would also be a great addition but the 49ers want to play FBS ball so the marriage would only be temporary.  The Big South is probably the place to turn.  Football only affiliate Stony Brook, who plays in the America East for their other sports would make sense and help pull the conference footprint northern.  Liberty and Coastal Carolina are also options.  Coastal Carolina would also serve as a travel for the often disgruntled UNC-Wilmington Seahawks who dread seeing their league drift north.  The CAA could also go for the AmEast's jugular and take Stony Brook, New Hampshire, and Maine all in as full members.  Boston University of the AmEast, who doesn't play football, has also been tossed around as a travel partner for Northeastern.  Another off the wall candidate out there is Central Connecticut St who is the awkward lone state school in the private school NEC--taking them, with their FCS football would add both stability to the CAA without completely shaking up the conference home of football affiliates New Hampshire and Maine.  It's really hard to determine what the CAA will ultimately do as their are so many working parts--schools pushing to move the footprint north, schools pushing to move the footprint south, FBS aspirations, FCS stability, commitment to basketball...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sunbelt Conference: Posturing for the Future

Today the Sunbelt welcomed Georgia St as its 11th football playing member and 12th total members as Arkansas-Little Rock doesn't field a team.  This is certainly a move to position the league for long term survival whereas the WAC is destined to fall.  I believe, either through insider information or just a hunch, that the SBC believes that C-USA and the MWC are both going to 10 members each.  The MWC seems to be going for Utah St and San Jose St while I believe C-USA's favors North Texas and Florida International.  So where does the Sunbelt fit in and why is the Georgia St move significant?  I believe that the SBC sees its future as being a 12-member football league.  The net gain after picking up Georgia St and losing North Texas and FIU is -1.  Adding 3 more would bring the league to the stated goal of 12.  The aforementioned move by the the MWC destabilizes the already fragile WAC and the SBC will be there to sweep up the refugees.  UTSA, and LA Tech seem like logical pick ups with the last slot being a toss up between New Mexico St and Texas St. If evening out things on the basketball side is a concern then UT-Arlington would be a logical counterbalance.  At this point the WAC is liable to close its doors--the only schools it could possibly add that would be desperate enough to join them are Cal St Bakersfield and Utah Valley St.

In the end, only 10 FBS conferences will remain.  FCS to FBS transition becomes virtually impossible as the SBC and MAC are the only entry-level conferences and both of them seem to be firm and stable after this SBC move and all the best candidates are either out west or along the East Coast.  The SBC would also be safely positioned to survive the next seismic shift in college football--the souring of the MWC/C-USA pact and the  renewed expansion of those leagues.  UTSA likely moves up with C-USA likely calling dibs since they have a solid Texas presence. The other C-USA promotion is a toss up between Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, and Florida Atlantic.  The MWC's options are somewhat slimmer with the Texas options are off the board; New Mexico St is really the only western school, aside from maybe Montana that would be of remote value.  Schools like Georgia Southern, Appalachian St, and Charlotte are there for SBC restocking.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why the Columbus Blue Jackets Suck (And Why the NHL Should be Patient with them rather than relocate/fold them)

NHL fans, particularly Canadian ones, have been clamoring for striping Columbus of their money-losing NHL team for some time.  The Blue Jackets have made only one playoff appearance and weren't even able to clinch a victory.  The front office and carousel of coaching staff have made some serious blunders that have certainly been detrimental to the franchise but I do not believe they are entirely to blame--alignment has a lot to do with why the Blue Jackets sucked.

The birth of the Blue Jackets ushered in a new era of NHL alignment and were placed in the Western Conference and the Central Division along with Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and St Louis.

I'll address the Western Division issue first.  As one of only two teams in the Eastern time zone playing in the West, travel is a bear.  5 of their conference mates spend hockey season on Pacific time while another 3 are on Mountain time.  It's tough to compete when you make lots of long flights and your body has no clue what time it is.  It also makes it hard for fans to follow their team when away games go into the early morning hours.

The Central Division is another consternation that I do not think the NHL saw coming.  I am sure they did lots of feasibility studies be awarding the city a franchise and saw that a Columbus had a void in pro sports and that the city had an ample supply of educated, upper middle class folks with money to spend and that everything checked out.  What those studies couldn't prognosticate would be the intra-division dynamics and how inevitably someone in the Central Division would struggle to be a viable franchise.  Chicago and Detroit are both Original Six teams that have a long history of success.  Both Columbus and Nashville are young franchises and neither one is in a huge market.  St Louis, while having some history, is also a smaller market team.  All three of these franchises desperately need to field competitive teams to keep fans interested and paying to see games and buying merchandise.  With Detroit and Chicago so entrenched at the top their is a glass ceiling in place for St Louis, Nashville, and Columbus with two of these three destined to be in 4th and 5th place within the division.  Furthermore, with the way in which the NHL playoffs are set up, play off berths for these three franchises come at a premium.  It should come to no surprise at NHL headquarters that at least one of these teams would be bleeding money and struggling to stay afloat.  It just so happens that Nashville and St Louis are on the upswing while Columbus is not.

Why the NHL shouldn't bail on Columbus
The Silver lining to this story is that I believe the Columbus can survive if the NHL implements the 4 Conference Alignment Plan that was released earlier this year but whose acceptance was stalled by the Players' Union, who sought to use it as a bargaining chip.  This plan would bring three additional members to the Blue Jackets' division--Dallas, Minnesota, and Winnipeg but four of the eight members would receive playoff berths.  This infusion of new teams would create more parity within the conference between the #3 and #8 spot.  Movement in the conference should be far my fluid and it will be unlikely that the Blue Jackets, or any team for that matter, remain perennial cellar dwellers.  This would also do away with all of those long flights to the west coast.  So please NHL, pass the new alignment plan and save the Blue Jackets. 

Looking forward: The Big West

The Big West is a California based conference and recently they lost their only private school, the University of the Pacific to the the all-private league the West Coast Conference.  As a part of the WAC/MWC/Big East shuffle the Big West is also gaining San Diego St and Hawaii which would bring their total membership to 10.  Ordinarily 10 is a perfect number, particularly for sports like basketball and volleyball where you can have a home and away with every member of your league.  The problem with the Big West is that Hawaii has no real travel partner to speak of out in the middle of the ocean and with Pacific gone UC Davis stands alone as the sole Northern California school.  Making them travel partners would result in some grueling road trips.  I think the Big West should consider adding at least one more member.  Of course, with this league is a somewhat delicate process.  Prior to the expansion, the league was split evenly between the UC system (UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Barbara) and the Cal St system (Cal Poly, Cal St Fullerton, Long Beach St, Cal St Northridge).  I am not sure how essential it is for the UC schools for the league to maintain a balance but when a school like San Diego St fell into their laps it was hard to say no.  I will explore a few of their options in order of how appealing they would be.

UNLV---The Big East is on the prowl for another western member and UNLV is probably the best candidate for them.  Personally I think the Big East would be foolish to add anyone else even if it were to even out divisions but the Big East never does what is preactical or make sense so this marquis basketball program could also land in the Big West's lap.

San Jose St---This would be a step down for the Spartans prestige-wise but should they be left out of the MWC when it finally decides to put the WAC out of its misery they would be a nice option.  They are also in Northern California and would be a great travel partner for UC Davis.   UPDATE--THEY GOT INTO THE MOUNTAIN WEST.  NO LONGER AN OPTION.

Sacramento St---This is the candidate that I think is A) most likely, and B) best long term decision.  Sacramento St is a geographic outlier in the Big Sky, a conference they are only in because of football.  Now that UC Davis and Cal Poly have affiliate membership with the Big Sky in that sport it makes sense for the Hornets to have the same deal and move to a conference home where league travel is more manageable.  Additionally they make an excellent travel mate for UC Davis.  The Big West will be patient though and be sure the first two options are exhausted before they send Sacramento St an invite.

Cal St Bakersfield---The Roadrunners transitioned from DII hoping to land in this league but an invitation has yet to materialize.  However I think they are Option #4 in the BW's list of priorities

UC San Diego---The Tritons are oversized in DII and want to make a move to DI and the BW but are weary of making the move and getting left as an independent like the Roadrunners.  As a UC school they would restore the balance between UC and Cal St.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Disbanding the WAC

The Western Athletic Conference was once a strong and proud mid major.  in 1984, BYU won a national title in football under their conference banner.  Over expansion in 1996, an expansion that I firmly believe would have worked if the schools involved would have remained patient and allowed it to mature rather than 8 members, mostly from the old guard abandoning it to create the Mountain West Conference.  We all know the story that followed--Utah and Texas Christian went on to BCS bowl games as did WAC member Boise St and when it looked as if they were going get an AQ bid to the BCS the AQ conferences cherry-picked theMWC which in turn did the same to the WAC.  Today, the WAC is a shadow of its former self.  San Jose St, its longest tenured member, was part of that 1996 expansion.  The league only has 7 participants in football and 2 are expansion teams from FCS.  To stay afloat non-football schools were brought in so it currently looks like such:

San Jose St (1996)
Louisiana Tech (2001)
Idaho (2005)
New Mexico St (2005)
Utah St (2005)
UT-San Antonio (2012)
Texas St (2012)
Denver (2012) -no football
Seattle (2012) -no football
UT-Arlington (2012) no football
In addition Boise St is slated to bring all of its sports but football back to the league in 2013.

The league will only survive if it can bring in more schools from FCS and while there are plenty of schools who could potentially make the move (Montana, Montana St, Portland St, Sacramento St) none of them are foolish enough to risk investing in an upgrade to a conference that is on the verge of falling apart.  The current state of the MWC and Conference USA as both of those leagues will be below full strength after experiencing defections to the Big East.  The WAC will inevitably be where they go to replenish their numbers as its ripe for the taking and no school would turn them down to stay on this sinking ship. At this point, the loss of of even two schools would put this league under.  Below I'll discuss where I believe each of the current WAC schools will be headed or at least what they should hope for when the league finally disbands.

San Jose St
San Jose St is one of the schools who has the brightest future.  Since they are in the Bay Area I think the MWC will surely pick the Spartans up.  If for some reason they don't their back up plan should be the Big West with their football playing at the FCS level in the Big Sky.  MAY 4TH UPDATE: HEADED TO THE MWC

Utah St
Utah St is another program that I think will bounce back and get a MWC invite.  They got one once before when the MWC launched countermeasures against the WAC when they WAC offered BYU a home for their Olympic sports.  Utah St somewhat foolishly decided to stay true to the WAC while Nevada and Fresno St jumped at the opportunity to upgrade.  Utah St fills a giant whole in the middle of the MWC footprint left vacant by BYU and Utah.  The Utah St Aggies will be a MWC school.  MAY 4TH UPDATE: HEADED TO THE MWC

New Mexico St
I believe these Aggies are also MWC bound but their is a chance that their instate rival might block them.  C-USA could be an alternative but it would require UTEP to actively campaign for them and for UTEP's wishes to be heard over all the various factions within that league.  Worst case scenario for New Mexico St is the Sunbelt, a conference that they were briefly in from 2001-2005. However, if the Sunbelt decides to go another direction with some of their eastern candidates the Aggies could be stuck in conference purgatory trying to hold the WAC together or face dropping to FCS and going to the Big Sky or Southland.

Unlike the rest of the WAC expansion class of 2005 I do not think Idaho has a happy future as an FBS program.  Boise St far outshines the Vandals within their own state and the Kibbie Dome, home of the Vandals, only seats 16,000 which is far below the standard set for FBS membership.  There is no reason for the MWC to offer Idaho any charity so I think Idaho needs to come to the realization that their future is in FCS and the Big Sky, who would glad welcome them back into the fold.  If they don't come to terms with the fact that their FBS football is dead in the water they, like NMSU, could be among the last trying to keep the league going.

UTSA is a baby program; they played their first down of football in 2011.  But unlike the other WAC schools UTSA has incredible growth potential and the other conferences would be foolish to ignore a program that is likely to be the next South Florida.  UTSA is the biggest show in town in San Antonio I wouldn't be surprised if filling the Alamo Dome became a regular occurrence in a few years.  With that said either the MWC or C-USA will pick them up.  UTSA might even end up in the unique situation of having both leagues approach them as suitors and getting to choose their new home.  C-USA would likely have the geographic edge but I could also see the MWC pitching them with an offer to bring North Texas along too as a travel partner.  Like with New Mexico St, the Sunbelt is always there as a back up plan and a few years there incubating their nascent program could be a good temporary home until one of the bigger leagues gives them a call up.   APRIL 28, 2012 UTSA JOINS C-USA

Louisiana Tech
The Sunbelt has pretty much had an open invitation for the Bulldogs since they started sponsoring football in 2001 but Louisiana Tech stuck with what they felt was a more prestigious league, the WAC.  Louisiana Tech has always had their eye on C-USA and they could finally get their shot to play in the best mid-major conference in the South but if not I think the SBC buries their hatchet and brings in LA Tech.  MAY 4TH UPDATE: HEADED TO C-USA

Texas St
The Bobcats don't have the cache that their sister program UTSA has.  I don't see Texas St getting calls from the MWC or C-USA.  They are simply too small, too unproven, and don't have the upside that the Roadrunners have.  Fear not, the Sunbelt will take you in.  The Sunbelt is inevitably going to lose somebody, if not multiple teams, to C-USA and will need to reload.  SBC Commissioner Karl Benson, the same Karl Benson who invited them into the WAC, has gone on record saying that he wants to expand so Texas St will have a home in FBS football and will not have to face the embarrassment of returning to the Southland and FCS.  MAY 4TH UPDATE: HEADED TO SUNBELT

Denver and Seattle 
Ultimately I think the futures of these two schools are intertwined and where one goes the other could follow.  Both of these schools aspire to be in the elite private school league the West Coast Conference.  The WCC recently added the University of the Pacific to bring their membership to 10 and expanding to 12 and gaining a presence in these two large television markets would seem to be a prudent move for the conference to explore.  The other possibility is that the Big Sky would take on these two schools on and waive their "all members must have football" rule.  It would make geographic sense to do so.  There is also the possibility that the MWC would decide to take one of these schools to offset the the fact that Hawaii is only a football member so that in all other sports their would be an even number of members.  Denver could also be courted by the Summit League to refill its depleted ranks.

UT Arlington
Without a football program up and going (I'm speculating that when they were in talks with the WAC that they used reviving their dormant program as a lure) a WAC collapse would mean a return to the Southland.  The Southland is well aware of this fact and i believe it is for that reason that they are holding at 11, having only replaced UTSA and Texas St with Oral Roberts and Houston Baptist respectively, rather than return to full strength.  The fact that there are two programs that would slot nicely into the Southland, Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-PanAmerican, but neither has been invited is a testament to the fact that Arlington still has a home there if they need it.  Another opportunity that the Mavericks might have would be if the SBC decided to balance UALR's lack of football.  However an SBC invitation might require a legitimate timeline to FBS football, a condition likely applicable to UALR too.  MAY 4TH UPDATE: FINALIZING TALKS WITH SUNBELT FOR MEMBERSHIP

Boise St
Boise St spurned the MWC for the Big East and that is something that the MWC schools will not soon forget.  While Boise St could be Hawaii's placeholder in all sports but football to even out the membership I don't see the MWC doing the Broncos any favors.  Boise's best bet would be for the Big Sky to take in their Olympic sports as they are in proximity to many of the old guard Big Sky members.  There is also a scenario in which the WAC runs out of members and closes down shop and the Big Sky denies them entry, forcing Boise (and by extension San Diego St) to bring all their sports back to the MWC.

Concluding Thoughts
The WAC is living on borrowed time.  As soon as the MWC and C-USA determine what format they are going to pursue for football and conference dominoes start falling schools will be jumping ship left and right.  In my most probable scenario Utah St and San Jose St will be the first to go, heading to the MWC (UTSA could take SJSU's slot).  Without enough schools to sponsor football the eastern teams will be be clawing to get into the SBC--UTSA is a shoe in, LA Tech is probable, with Texas St and New Mexico St vying for a slot too.  UT Arlington has a good chance of being admitted as well despite not having a football team.  That  leaves Idaho, Seattle*, Denver*, and Boise for sure, probably New Mew Mexico St, and possibly UT Arlington, and a slight chance that San Jose St is still around. The list of possible replacements is so short--Utah Valley, Cal St Bakersfield, UTPA, New Orleans--I don't see them holding the league together and eventually everyone will find a new home or be left independent.  MAY 4TH UPDATE: LEAGUE IS AT 5 MEMBERS: IDAHO, NEW MEXICO ST, BOISE ST*, DENVER*, AND SEATTLE*