Now what, Mr. Commissioner?

August 19th, 2010

Best line from a rough teleconference for Karl Benson: “I wish I’d made it $20 million.”

(On the $5 million loyalty guarantee WAC members agreed to last week.)


Benson started with brief comments that described Fresno State and Nevada leaving the WAC as “selfish actions.”

He acknowledged an agreement was in place for BYU to join the WAC as a member in all sports other than football. It would be independent in football.

As part of the agreement, BYU would schedule football games against four WAC teams each season.

But with the defections, that is dust in the wind.


With Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada leaving the WAC, is there any reason for Hawaii to remain in the conference?

The remaining members are Idaho, LaTech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.

How viable is independence, at least in football?

The landscape is changing, and in two years there will be more independent schools. That would make for a less difficult scheduling situation than it would be now.

I asked Benson how much the WAC’s far-flung travel to Hawaii and Louisiana had to do with Fresno and Nevada’s departure. He said it was probably a significant factor and admitted to the conference being “geographically challenged.”

I asked how he would try to keep what’s remaining intact. He said he had a teleconference with the remaining members this morning.


54 Responses to “Now what, Mr. Commissioner?”

  1. kev-1:

    I don’t know if I am taking this a bit too hard, but as a UH grad and a huge UH sports fan, I feel pretty sad. Not sure if there was anything UH could have done differently when Boise announced it was leaving, but it sure seems now that we should have been more proactive. Maybe Donovan knew about the BYU thing and that was UH being proactive?

    This really sucks. Especially for us football fans. Better go to the games or order the pay-per-view now, because this is the last year that football may be worth watching.

    HEY . . . wait a minute! Is Oceanic Cable behind this?

  2. bowsfan:

    I guess Benson has his work to do, if the WAC dissolves, he’s out of a job. Most sports are OK with 6 for awhile, but softball will only have 5 teams, since Idaho doesn’t have softball. I know 2011 softball WAC tournament is in Fresno, what about the next years. We already know from WAC baseball tournament that a neutral site won’t work. I think Las Vegas might only work for WAC tournaments for volleyball and basketball. So much up in the air.

  3. kev-1:

    It sounds like the WAC’s plan is to pursue teams to replace those that left. The teams that he’s considering significantly weaken the conference. I know it seems selfish of Fresno and Nevada to leave, but in all reality it was beneficial to their programs. Once the sting is gone from the cheap shot, you can’t blame them. With that said, UH needs to follow suit and leave the WEAK WAC. Especially because Benson intends on making it even weaker.

    If I were Donovan, I would be on my hands and knees begging the Pac-10 to let us in. I know it won’t happen, but really going independent and Pac-10 are the only options that I see as positive for UH.

  4. kev-1:

    by the way . . . how come this blog doesn’t show up on the front page with some of the others? it’s my favorite one.

  5. dreardon:

    There are some glitches we’re working through. It’s on the “scroll” now top on the list. It won’t always be there, it’s kind of a rotating deal. They’re working on a new system that will put the sports blogs on their own scroll so it will be easier for people who are interested in specific subject areas.

  6. longboarder:

    Obviously when Boise left the WAC the commish was tight lipped regarding the BYU situation. He thought he had a good hand but he got beat on the river.

    In your humble opinion do you think the commish is holding any cards left and was not sharing them with us during the presser? Or is this it? Nothing left? Scrambling with a short stack of chips?

  7. KonaWarrior:

    You know the irony of it all is that if it were UH instead of Nevada, we probably would have left in a heartbeat also.

  8. Manoa Mist:

    The problem I have with the WAC adding DII chumps or teams like North Texas or Texas State is I ain’t paying premium seat fees, parking stipends and expensive PPV charges to watch these teams plus LT, Idaho, New Mexico State and the rest of the also-rans.
    Either UH goes DII and charges DII fees to its fans or we go independent, try and get good teams to come here and charge for it.
    Forget the WAC already. How many times do we get stood up before we learn?
    The lack of proactive leadership at UH – in Hawaii even if you include our legislators – is almost shocking. Would John Burns not have had a plan B ready to implement? Would Stan Sheriff have left UH floundering on the beach like a fish out of water?
    We may have more challenges than benefits as an athletic program, but we need Hawaii’s leaders to step up now more than ever.

  9. Paco:

    Since geography and the related costs are part of the problem would the other WAC members back stab UH and kick them out? Then invite others in a more favorable geographic area?

  10. Paco:

    I do give Benson some credit on the BYU plan though. I think that is the vision and initiative that his detractors (me being one of them) said he didn’t have. That would’ve worked out well if it went through. But like longboarder said, he got beat on the river.

  11. lolonuts:

    Wac rules say that a school can’t be dropped unless it fails to meet certain criteria.

  12. Paco:

    I think Manoa Mist is right. Forget the WAC. Conference loyalty is a thing of the past. Every school for itself right now. The writing was on the wall when the original defectors left to form the MWC. The subsequent conference realignments and creation of the BCS should’ve triggered some honest evaluation of UH’s positives AND negatives and development of a long range vision of what it wants out of its atheltics program. Then develop a strategic plan and timetable for reaching those goals. Maybe UH did these things, maybe not. All I know is that UH athletics is in a bad place right now and it doesn’t appear to the public that UH knows what to do.

  13. wes:

    Ever since we got stood up the first time and then playing musical chairs with other schools that have come and gone since I just keep wondering if Carl Benson is the right man for the job? I don’t know enough about him but it does seem we are always behind the eight ball, in catch-up mold and more reactive than proactive. I personally don’t think going after lower level members is the answer. Does the MW have that much money to help pay the $5M penalty plus that much perks to attract Fresno and Nevada? Also is it true Nevada did not sign or agree with the penalty agreement???

    Hmmm. maybe at this point going independent and controlling our own destiny is the best, most viable and/or only alternative. A good start in the direction would be to try to negotiate with Oregon State, Washington or Washington State, Oregon, Army, Navy, Air Force, BYU, UNLV, plus another Pac 10 team to be on our schedule every year. Which means JD has much work to do. I think however if he is successful going down that road attendance and fan interest would tend to take care of itself just by who we’d be competing against!

  14. Robin:

    What do you think about my vision that I posted (in the article section)?

    WAC should consider disbanding. Schools can still survive.
    1) LA Tech moves to C-USA.
    2) Remaining teams move to “non-FBS football” conference- BIG WEST. This being Hawaii, San Jose St., Idaho, Utah State, and New Mexico State. These 5 schools were ALL members of this conference in some capacity not more than several years ago. West Coast Conference would not be a good match for any WAC schools, as all WCC are private and most, if not all, church-based.
    3) FOOTBALL survives by doing much the same thing that BYU was planning to do (schedule several WAC teams in football): Independent but agree to play each other (except for LA TECH) on an annual basis, during the meat of “conference play time”- this is 4 games.
    Hawaii’s case
    1- They would play AS AN INDEPENDENT- Idaho, Utah St, New Mexico St., and San Jose State.
    2- Try and start the season as early as possible, so it may be possible to schedule as many as 4 non-conference games before other schools get into their conference schedules. And on the other end, schedule as late into the regular season as possible (1st week in December)
    3- Try to play on an annual or near-annual basis: 1) BYU, 2) UNLV, 3) Army, Navy, and/or Air Force, and 4) unfortuantely, a FCS team (or two- alternate years), such as Sac St, Montana, etc.

  15. mac fan:

    Has our geography changed since UH joined the WAC many moons ago??? Obviously our geography was appealing back then so why not rekindle the appeal of NCAA athletic competition in Hawaii once again with teams or conferences that embrace this factor.
    I think independent is the way to go for football and the Big West Conference for everything else.

  16. Its over:

    “Benson started with brief comments that described Fresno State and Nevada leaving the WAC as “selfish actions.””

    Woah! Stellar strategy! Benson has them by the cajones now!!! Watch, now FSU and Nev. are gonna cave and come crawling back to the WAC out of guilt feelings.

    If there’s one thing that makes universities and their sports programs move, it’s when a guy like Benson calls them “selfish”. Watch also for FSU and Nev. to offer up $5 mil apiece when they do come back as apology money.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the people of Fresno and Reno begin to demand that FSU and Nev. issue apologies with full contrition and retraction to the WAC. Those people, not to mention the schools’ fans, must be horribly devastated and embarrassed that Benson has outed them as “selfish” in the national media.

    Cities die because of this sort of thing. Empires fall. History teaches us that. When the Barbarians started calling Rome selfish, look what happened to that empire.

    But, go get ‘em, Benson. Next time, swing below the belt. They deserve it. Call them “uncool” too, and let them know just how much they hurt your feelings!!! That’ll teach ‘em. Get your house back in order and bring the recalcitrant, “selfish” children back home.

  17. mac fan:

    Robin: Great plan. I agree with all of it. Maybe K.Benson can give the remaining WAC teams a split of the 10 Million penalty money from Fresno and Nevada as a parting gift to the programs so they all can have a good start wherever they go.

  18. Drew:

    Has the WAC commish really thrown in the towel in this fight with the MWC? Did the WAC tap out already? Ok so the MWC scored a major blow yesterday, but the WAC is still alive, injured but alive and in the world of collegiate conferences, this is a no rules death match and if you are still alive you need to keep fighting.

    I don’t think the commish should have issued disparaging remarks about Fresno and Nevada. It was childish to do. He might as well have called them fat, ugly, stupid, and stink. There’s no point in calling them names, you don’t accomplish anything by doing that.

    This is a crisis situation for UH and probably the other remaining WAC schools. Fresno and Neveda obviously left for financial reasons and a part of that financial equation is the far flung travel costs of the WAC. The WAC shouldn’t give up on Fresno and Nevada just yet. Just because they accepted an invite to the MWC doesn’t mean they can’t “re-think” the MWC offer just like how Boise was “re-thinking” their move to the MWC because of the possible BYU deal. The WAC tried using a stick (the $5 million penalty) to keep its schools committed to the conference. It didn’t work. Perhaps it should offer a carrot to Fresno and Nevada as well. Offer each of those two schools $1 million annually over the next five years to remain in the WAC to be subsidized by the remaining 6 WAC schools which comes out to about $320 k per school per year. Tell Fresno and Nevada, either take this $5million offer over the next five years or we’ll see you in court over the $5million exit fee, your choice. It’s a $10 million swing.

    If Nevada and Fresno stay, the BYU deal would again be in play.

    It would be unpopular for some WAC schools to pay other WAC schools just to simply stay put. It’s a blow to our egos yes. But really, what are the other alternatives? Aloha Stadium tailgating at a UH – Montana State game? Chance um in the unknown wilderness of independence? Those are bleak scenarios. Sometimes we need to swallow our pride in the short-term for our long-term goals.

  19. Paco:

    I think geography was never really appealing back then, but tolerated. The “Hawaii exemption” helped, but this lost some of its appeal when the NCAA allowed 13 game schedules. I think economics play a much bigger role today then back then. Unless Hawaii can position itself in a way to be financially attractive, whether it be TV, access to other markets (Asia?) or travel subsidies, the appeal of playing in paradies won’t matter.

  20. mac fan:

    Too bad we cannot get Wahine Volleyball into the PAC 10. They deserve it…

  21. warriorfan:

    Dan Inouye , Dan UH needs your assistance now more than ever , please use all your wherewithall to get us into another viable conference , whether it be Pac 10, Conference USA

  22. Roy:

    The final verse has not been written on this. This is TV-driven and ESPN is not going to let the Mountain West Network and Comcast take its property. ESPN wants BYU football. Suppose UNLV and San Diego State bolt for the WAC. And one of the original WAC members – UTEP – returns. All of a sudden the WAC is a very viable conference. Then LA Tech can take UTEP’s place in C-USA and remove a geographical problem. All of a sudden the WAC is a very viable conference, stronger TV-audience wise than the MWC. With ESPN’s backing, anything is possible.

  23. Its over:

    “I asked how he would try to keep what’s remaining intact. He said he had a teleconference with the remaining members this morning.”

    DANG!!!!!! Why didn’t Benson have a “conference call” the day before???? That would’ve kept FSU and Nev. in the WAC. The power of a Benson “conference call” cannot be underestimated. No doubt he would have had FSU and Nev. “at hello”.

    I’ll bet Benson will be breathing fire and ready to crack heads during that conference call. I predict all remaining WAC presidents are gonna get this warning from Karl: “bolt our conference and I go national and call you “selfish””. The Prezes’ secretaries better go out and hunt down some Depends before that phone rings. . . .

  24. Its over:

    “The final verse has not been written on this. This is TV-driven and ESPN is not going to let the Mountain West Network and Comcast take its property. ESPN wants BYU football. Suppose UNLV and San Diego State bolt for the WAC. And one of the original WAC members – UTEP – returns. All of a sudden the WAC is a very viable conference. Then LA Tech can take UTEP’s place in C-USA and remove a geographical problem. All of a sudden the WAC is a very viable conference, stronger TV-audience wise than the MWC. With ESPN’s backing, anything is possible.”

    All of that makes sense if the only objective is to save the rear ends of UH and the reamining WAC members. Why would UNLV and San Diego St. want to leave the MWC right now – especially if BYU doesn’t move its non-football to the WAC? Same with UTEP and C-USA. What does La Tech bring to the table for C-USA that’s better than UTEP?

  25. jediwarrior:

    Nice to know that its Hawaii’s and La. Tech’s fault. :)

    With the powerhouses in the conference like Idaho, USU, NMSU…I can see why Hawaii and La. Tech are to blame.

    Wonder if the other 14 schools bolting during Mr. Peanut’s watch is our fault as well?

  26. 310 Warrior Alum:

    Bottom line is the Benson and Donovan are both inept officials without much knowledge of what is going on and that is why we are in this mess. We should have known from the very start, even before Boise State’s defection that something was amuck. That’s why these guys are paid the bucks. All we hear from Benson and Donovan is that everything will be fine. Benson and Donovan should have been more proactive, rather than just stroking each other. Too late for that now.

    Going independent will make scheduling very difficult, if not impossible. Also, getting D-II teams will make the conference weaker and less appealing, leading to less money and bigger deficits. Teams such as Wahine Volleyball will suffer greatly. At this point I don’t know how much can be done, but someone needs to be doing something more proactive. If there is such a partnership with ESPN as stated in some of the comments, why can’t Hawaii get into some kind of partnership with ESPN to make it more lucurative for teams to play us (if this is against WAC rules, move to change the rules). Hawaii could use the tourist industry to help with offsetting some of the costs involved (Maybe have a major hotel sponsor the stay of a team when they play us. Rotate that with the a half dozen hotel chains and advertise the hotels during the games). These are just some thoughts, but if something is not done soon the WAC will be called WAS.

  27. Dave Reardon:

    14. Interesting plan. Does the Big West want to expand? Do its members want to send their soccer and tennis teams to Hawaii every year?

  28. Dave Reardon:

    23. Benson was moving his freshman daughter into her dorm at USC yesterday.

  29. Dave Reardon:

    15. Well, geography is a bigger issue now I think because of the economy, and the Hawaii exemption is not as valuable now because of the advent of conference championship games. Title IX factors in also, with more non-revenue teams having to travel so far and so expensively than in the past.

  30. Dave Reardon:

    13. According to Benson, Nevada did not technically sign the agreement, but did agree to it. This could be quite a bone of contention.

  31. kev-1:

    Whoa!!! The MWC wanted Utah State over Hawaii? What the _______ does that say about where we stand?

    I wish I could just tune out and tune back in when this is all settled. But I can’t because I’m a glutten for punishment.

    Seems like since everyone is pulling favors to get teams into conferences, maybe JJ can get us into C-USA? At least it is better than the WAC now.

  32. Roy:

    Reply to Manoa Mist – You’re already paying Division II prices! I know a guy that pays $10,000 for four tickets to the Alabama games and he’s not even on the 50 yard line. That’s Division One prices.

  33. Steve:

    So if everything ends up not being fine, will JD (Jim Donovan) leave his post and pay back everything he has earned from this day forward?

  34. kev-1:

    Steve . . . I really don’t think Donovan is to blame for this. I’d like to think that if an opportunity presented itself to UH, Donovan would jump at it, just like Fresno and Nevada did, provided it was in the best interest of the school. I just think those opportunities have not been there.

  35. Steve:

    Reardon, Benson did not have his cell phone with him, too, while moving his daughter in?
    What is his excuse there? I guess everybody now knows where Benson is really coming from.
    From his perspective, do not listen to what I say, see what I do, means more. Which is I do not care about the WAC.

  36. Steve:

    PLEASE, someone give a call to June Jones, we need him back desperately. He was the only proactive person in the athletic department.

  37. Robin:

    14. Interesting plan. Does the Big West want to expand? Do its members want to send their soccer and tennis teams to Hawaii every year?

    Wouldn’t really think any conference would like it financially as far as the non-revenue sports. But 14 teams off-hand and two 7-team divisions looks fine from here. Appeal as far as competition for baseball and volleyball, and perhaps softball. At least as far as travel for the current Big West to Honolulu, its bus rides then straight to Honolulu from LAX or SFO, and same in reverse for Hawaii.
    Wouldn’t this be great for the media traveling?
    I mean LAX= Fullerton, Irvine, Long Beach, Northridge, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Cal Poly
    SFO= Davis, Pacific, SAN JOSE
    Though you’d still have to go to the “garden” spots of Moscow, Logan, and Las Cruces.
    Always pictured the Hawaii media dreaming of the Pac-10 so they can make regular road trips to Seattle, Portland, San Fran, LA, and Phoenix versus the current WAC road map.
    Yeah, maybe I’m just thinking optimistically because Wahine volleyball and Rainbow baseball would have better competition.

  38. Robin:


    Since I’m doubting even North Texas (didn’t they decline not long ago) and Arkansas St. would accept invitations to the WAC. Doesn’t look like many options for the WAC.

    Looks like WAC sceanrio is ….

    First, hope MWC doesn’t steal any more WAC members, of which Hawaii doesn’t have a shot
    then either 1) extend offers to DI-AA such as Montana, Sac St and Cal Poly or
    2) fold but perhaps still play each other out of scheduling necessity for football (like I suggested)

  39. mac fan:

    Please stop asking for June Jones to come back!!! The man abandoned this program at a time when UH athletics could have turned the corner in becoming an upper echlelon college program. The man has no kokua for us!!! Remember, the buggah ran and took the big bucks rather than stay the course here at UH. The UH and boosters tried to keep him here by digging deep into their pockets to match the SMU money but he still decided to tuck tail and run.
    He knew the challenges of the UH program when he took the job and I remember him saying back then that the program’s success was more important to him then money and that he would stay the course. LIAR!!!!

    Good Riddance!!!

  40. wes:

    mac fan
    39. didn’t JJ also challenge paying the penalty for leaving early and then settle for a lesser amount:-(?

  41. Realist:

    Hawaii is a victim of its geography and the current economic crisis, coupled with the current BCS conference re-alignments. The MWC needed to do something to shore the loss of Utah and BYU’s intent to defect to the WAC (except for football). Even TCU is probably looking at the BIG 12 as its next step. Hard to swallow, but this is the situation. And, Benson has been exploring interest for teams to consider joining the WAC. You all forget that Boise, Nevada, Utah St, etc. were brought in to shore up the WAC when the other eight withdrew to form the MWC. It’s time to wait and see if the WAC can convince “several” teams to join the WAC. If Benson can find a way to do this (it will be really difficult), it would be the perfect time to rename the conference. Let the “WAC” die, so the remaining teams with its new partners, find its new identity. And there will be “victims.” Sports like tennis, golf, swimming, sailing….may have to be dropped. The remaining sports programs will have to be able to either support itself, or to be a financial contributor to the overall program. Hawaii cannot survive as an independent. It needs conference affiliation in order to complete full schedules. Basketball will be hard pressed to find home and home teams. Even football will have to play the majority of its games on the road. Perhaps Wahine volleyball may be the only sport to be able to survive this mess unscathed.

  42. mac fan:

    wes: Yes. Guilty of that too..

    14. Interesting plan. Does the Big West want to expand? Do its members want to send their soccer and tennis teams to Hawaii every year?

    Dave, I think UH should approach them with Robin’s idea. Maybe travel sponsorship from Hawaiian Air might be a solution to travel expense. Being that most of the WCC teams are in Cali, It might be an easier sell.
    BTW: With the make up of coastal teams, we can be pioneers and introduce collegiate surfing, paddle board, canoeing (I think this already exists), skateboarding, beach volleyball, free diving, etc..
    Someone I work with told me that bass fishing was a collegiate sport and some colleges are giving scholarships.

    If bass fishing is in , why can’t we create some of our own…

  43. mac fan:

    Sorry, I meant to say Big West Conference, “BWC” not “WCC” in my post…

  44. Dave Reardon:

    35. I don’t know if he had his cell phone with him, or if he had it on. I’m just telling you where he said he was yesterday.

  45. mac fan:

    Just in case you think I was making this up…

  46. bueller555:

    Without a conference and having forced home-and-home scheduling with conference opponents, Hawaii will have a tough time filling out a schedule. The cost of enticing teams to make the trip out to Hawaii in the middle of their conference schedules would be difficult and expensive. Going independent would require a lot of away games. I’m confident that the WAC will have 8 teams, however, the quality of the conference is guaranteed to be terrible. The Sun Belt Conference must be giddy that they won’t be last place in the power rankings anymore.

  47. mac fan:

    If staying in the WAC is our only alternative, why not try to steal back Air Force and UNLV and sweeten the deal for BYU to come back. These are all programs with Hawaii ties and travel expense should not be an issue. I think they make great replacements for Fresno and Nevada.

  48. JJ:

    The toughest part of this whole ordeal is that since Hawaii is a senior member of the WAC we have seen many changes over the years, mostly for the worst. We are the last crew members on a sinking ship. Best solution if Hawaii wants to remain conference affiliated is to hope that Benson grows some balls and pushes for a WAC-MWC super conference. Enough of this raiding back and forth. Its only going to screw over the WAC in the end if we go that route. I think Louisiana Tech would eventually be a viable member for the Conference USA so that would leave Hawaii, Utah St., Idaho, San Jose St. and New Mexico St. The WAC should just throw in the towel- going after schools such as Texas St., TSA, UC Davis, Sac St., Montana St. is just an insult to Hawaii and all its other members. We are the worst conference in the entire NCAA right now…we need to be pro-active Benson!

  49. Dave Reardon:

    Pardon The Interruption played “Happy Trails” to the WAC today.

  50. jeff:

    Didn’t June Jones say a couple of weeks ago the that hawaii should go independent !!! Why would he make such a comment i just think June is a genius he really see’s things so well. Jim Donovan step up to the plate be proactive

  51. wes:

    Hey Dave,
    49. what about choto mate kudasai…please excuse me while I cry:-).

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