Why would the Big Sky be interested in keeping the WAC afloat? Just to be nice? Not likely. Upon further review, a couple ideas come to mind.
For one, there is the opportunity for the Big Sky to assist some of its current athletics programs — the ones they’d consider moving into the WAC — in opening up another automatic qualifying bid for NCAA Tournaments by moving into the league.
Who would the WAC get? Here’s a list of Big Sky schools for the 2012 year (13 total):
Cal Poly (football only)
UC Davis (football only)
Would the Big Sky give up Montana or Montana State? I think it’s safe to say the answer would be no.
Eastern Washington or Weber State? Perhaps, although not likely either.
Northern Arizona or Northern Colorado? Now those would seem to be realistic options.
Geographically, those schools could work. As we know it, the WAC right now is made up of New Mexico State, Idaho, Denver (non football), and Seattle (non football). This alignment goes on the assumption that Boise State will in fact pull its Olympic sports out of the league.
And now this: lets just say right off the bat, the Big Sky/WAC scenario is currently for Olympic sports. Is it the best alternative? No, it doesn’t look incredibly appealing for NMSU if the Aggies were in fact involved in such a move. With that being said, it’s a league, and a league is better than no league at all. And, yes, these Olympic sports do need conference affiliation — independent men’s basketball or women's volleyball at NMSU would be daunting, if doable at all.
Down the road, however, could the WAC act as a football league for Big Sky programs — a league that currently is FCS in football — looking to make the jump to the FBS level?
This has been talked about on the Cruces Sports Blog for some time, and perhaps that would be one benefit for the Big Sky as well in this whole deal.
Not in the immediate future, mind you. The belief here is that the Aggies will be playing independent football in 2013, perhaps 2014 as well. Just read this quote from WAC interim commissioner Jeff Hurd, which appeared in Jason Groves’ Las Cruces Sun-News story the other day.
“In this specific model, I would say the WAC would be operating as a non-football league. We are exploring every conceivable option and this is one of those options....I always think there is hope, but to be realistic, the odds are difficult, certainly at the FBS level.”
Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg