- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that the WAC has officially added UT-San Antonio, Texas State and Denver, the big question is this:
Where does this league stack up against all the rest in college football?
It appears as if it is going to be a long road back for the WAC now that it is losing Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, its three best teams. The WAC has already gotten roundly criticized for the perception that it is a weak league with Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada in it. Now that it is adding two football members that are not even on the FBS level right now, the WAC might move behind the Sun Belt in terms of conference perception.
Commissioner Karl Benson did his best to spin the move, and show his excitement about getting back into the Texas market for football with UTSA and Texas State. He said the two new football members would be able to compete for bowls quickly. Sure, that is possible, but you have to wonder how quickly that might happen. UTSA has coaching pedigree with Larry Coker in charge, but even the school is not sure about joining as a football member until 2013.
"The WAC has taken blows in the past and we've been able to add schools since 1998," Benson said. "This is the next opportunity to provide Texas State, UT-SAn Antonio and the University of Denver an opportunity to take their programs to another level. The WAC has been known for providing those opportunities for our schools and for our student-athletes."
When asked if adding these three schools was an act of desperation, Benson said, "I don't think it's an act of desperation. It's a proactive approach to solidify the conference for the future."
Of the six remaining members of the WAC, only one currently has a winning record -- Hawaii. The Warriors are in the best position to carry the flag Boise State has carried for the WAC given the current state of their program. They went to the BCS during the 2007 season, losing to Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
But combined, the six remaining schools have an average of five bowl appearances each. New Mexico State has not been to a bowl since 1960; Utah State hasn't been since 1997. San Jose State has been to one and Louisiana Tech has been to two since 1991.
"From a historical standpoint, the one thing the WAC has going forward that doesn't exist in the other five the non-automatic qualifying conferences -- with Hawaii the WAC still has a team that has played in a BCS game," Benson said. "There's only been two conferences that have put teams into the BCS, the WAC and the Mountain West. As we go forward with this new membership, we'll still be able to claim a team in Hawaii that has played in a BCS game.
"I've said several times that I've been fortunate to go to three BCS games in the past four years, two with Boise State and one with Hawaii. I'm expecting that somewhere down the road I will go to a BCS game with a WAC member."
But then again, you can easily point to the rise of Boise State in the WAC as a reason not to count anybody out. Boise State joined the WAC in 2001, and since then has played in two BCS games and is aiming for a third straight undefeated regular season. Boise State is 360-144-2 since joining FBS in 1996.
"Any of the six schools going forward can easily be the next Boise State," Benson said.
He is going to need for that to happen. And fast.
4hTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney