Texas-Arlington after accepting an invitation to join the WAC in 2012 declared Thursday on its website, "It's a whole new ball game." WAC commissioner Karl Benson, speaking to reporters, called the basketball-playing school's addition part of the "evolution of the new WAC."
The WAC is now up to 10 members for the 2012-13 season. Benson has attempted to rebound from a mass exodus of schools with the additions of Denver, Seattle, Texas-Arlington, Texas State and UT-San Antonio.
In adding to the membership, Benson believes that means the WAC will become a more consistent player for NCAA tournament bids and NCAA tournament wins in the future.
"The WAC will return as a multiple-bid conference," he said.
Two WAC teams went to the NCAA tournament as recently as 2010, but it took a New Mexico State upset of Utah State in the conference tournament to get it done. Then this past season Utah State, after dominating the league in a down year, found out the hard way how difficult it can to get a good seeding coming out of the WAC. They managed just a No. 12 seed despite 30 regular-season wins.
Benson derives his confidence in more WAC teams consistently making the NCAA tournament and improving their RPI based upon road wins that might come easier beginning in 2012. It's these wins that are more heavily weighted in RPI, and Benson thinks teams will be able to rack up more of them with a 10-member conference.
Now that the league has the right amount of teams to form travel partners [Louisiana Tech/Texas-Arlington, Texas State/UT San Antonio, Idaho/Seattle, San Jose State/Utah State, and Denver/New Mexico State], it allows for reduced travel costs, less missed class and the stability of Thursday-Saturday scheduling.
"While it's always difficult to win on the road, we believe this will allow our top teams to improve their RPI," said Benson, adding that it would help WAC teams do better in the NCAA tournament and generate revenue previously left on the table.
With 10 teams, a WAC team would play an 18-game league schedule. It is also Benson's hope to eventually expand to 12 teams and form two divisions.
Adding a Texas-Arlington program from the Southland Conference that went 13-16 this past season won't generate a huge amount of buzz, but the Mavericks will enter the conference with a new 6,500-seat arena that is scheduled to open next year.
"This day will long be remembered at UTA," athletic director Pete Carlon said in a statement. "We are excited to make the jump into the WAC and into a FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) conference. I know our entire university community is looking forward to our future in the WAC as we move more to a national stage."