- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Hawaii joined the Mountain West Conference for football only on Friday in an expected move, becoming the fourth team to leave the WAC in six months.
The rest of the athletics programs will compete in the Big West. Last month, Hawaii announced it had all but sealed the agreement with the Mountain West, which has taken every single bowl eligible WAC team. Boise State joins the league starting in 2011, while Fresno State and Nevada also join in 2012.
The Mountain West will remain at 10 football-playing schools for the 2012 season with the addition of Hawaii and departure of TCU. The league's board of directors met Friday in Las Vegas to discuss the membership.
"Hawaii’s outstanding football program and television value fit perfectly with the MWC’s strategic initiatives for the future direction of the conference," MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. "We look forward to adding the Warriors to the MWC family."
The Warriors had little choice but to leave after Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada bolted, leaving a weakened WAC behind. That league has announced it would add current FCS members UT-San Antonio and Texas State, essentially going outside the Hawaii geographical footprint. With the loss of Hawaii, the WAC has six football playing members for 2012-13: the new Texas schools, plus Utah State, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and San Jose State. The WAC is going to have to go looking again, but where is a big question.
As for the Mountain West, the future strength of the league is up for debate. This addition has no impact on the quest to become an AQ conference because the conference membership as of December 2011 is what will determine whether the league meets the necessary criteria. Though TCU is leaving for the Big East, that move does not happen until 2012 so its credentials will be applied toward the criteria.
But the Mountain West is losing Utah, TCU and BYU. Boise State is a great addition and essentially cancels out the loss of TCU. But none of the other schools being added have the credentials of Utah or BYU over the last several years. Nevada and Hawaii have had great seasons this year. Hawaii is the only other team aside from Utah, TCU and Boise State to make it into a BCS game. But in terms of sustained success, and ability to put itself in position to be as strong as some of the other conferences, that remains a question.
Remember, Boise State dominated the WAC. Yes, the Mountain West has Air Force and San Diego State, but neither of those have been in the upper echelon of a Mountain West dominated by TCU, Utah and BYU.