WAC commissioner Karl Benson spoke on a teleconference Wednesday morning about five potential new member schools that he and the WAC athletic directors met with Tuesday in Dallas.
They are Montana, Texas-San Antonio, Texas State, Denver and Seattle. Denver and Seattle do not have football teams.
“Getting to a minimum of eight football schools, that is our priority,” Benson said. Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada are leaving the WAC, which would drop the league to six football playing schools.
Montana, which has won Division I-AA national football championships and is a perennial power at that level, seems to be the prize recruit of this bunch … but also perhaps the most unlikely to make a move. The school is undergoing a feasibility study of going into Division I-A, as well as a change at president. It is the only one of the five schools that did not make a formal presentation during Tuesday’s meetings, Benson said.
“We established mutual interest,” Benson said.
Some have gone as far to say Montana has the potential to be another Boise State, a school that comes up from I-AA able to make a big impact in I-A. That seems pretty assumptive, considering Boise State is ranked No. 3 in the latest football polls.
Benson said the WAC wants to extend invitations “within a 30-to-60 day window,” after WAC officials make campus visits to the prospective new members’ schools.
“There is not a sense uf urgency,” Benson said. “We do not need to make a decision today. There is no rank order.”
He said the timeline is in place to “send a message the WAC is stabilized” and negate negative recruiting of student-athletes.
Most new member schools would likely join the conference for the 2012-13 school year, but Benson said the WAC would be open to 2011-12 entry. But he added that would not lead to early release of Fresno State and Nevada; they are contracted to leave after spring 2012, but both schools want to join the Mountain West Conference in 2011.