UNLV - faced with a $10.5 million deficit - may balk at joining the Western Athletic Conference because of a $600,000 admission fee.
UNLV interim president Kenny Guinn told university regents on Thursday that the invitation to join the WAC is a "wonderful opportunity."But he said the school just doesn't have the admission fee. He said the only hope is that UNLV and five other schools involved can get the conference to lower or drop its demand.
The regents voted to approve admission to the league on the condition that the conference drop the fee.
UNLV, San Jose State, Rice, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist and Tulsa were invited to join the WAC last April. The expanded conference was to be in effect for the 1996 football season.
Regent Shelley Berkley said she was unhappy with the fee.
"It sounds like highway robbery to me," Berkley said. "I'm not sure I want to deal with a conference that starts off this way."
Guinn said UNLV has until Aug. 1 to tell the WAC whether it will accept the conditions and join the conference.
The Las Vegas school, a member of the Big West Conference, had been looking forward to joining the WAC and the opportunity for increased exposure for its football program, more bowl opportunities, and more revenues.
Athletic Director Jim Weaver said he and the other five schools learned of the WAC's demands on June 10 following a meeting of the conference directors.
"I can tell you the six athletic directors collectively were in a state of shock," he told the regents.
Weaver said that in addition to the $600,000 for the first year, UNLV and the other five teams would lose $600,000 every year for four additional years.
The schools would not receive an expected annual conference cut of $440,000 and would be required to contribute $160,000 to the conference up to $600,000, he said.
Weaver said he didn't know the reason for the contribution but said he believes it is to be divided among the existing teams.
Weaver said UNLV would benefit eventually by moving to the WAC because the Big West Conference generates little revenue for the Las Vegas school.
Guinn said he is continuing to talk to the WAC and hopes to make progress in the next two to three weeks.
But Guinn said he prepared Weaver for the possibility of UNLV staying in the Big West.
"I'd hate to see us lose this opportunity because of one difference, but I can tell you right now we don't have $600,000," he told the regents.