Wednesday's announcement that the Western Athletic Conference is expanding to include Nevada didn't surprise Utah State officials, even if it did make them a little sad.
"The move by Nevada was not unexpected," said Utah State athletic director Bruce Van De Velde, "but it was disappointing."WAC presidents, meeting in Napa, Calif., voted unanimously Wednesday morning to accept Nevada as a member beginning July 1, 2000.
In a conference call Wednesday afternoon, SMU president Gerald Turner, chairman of the WAC Board of Directors, said several schools, including Utah State, were considered for expansion, but the presidents decided to just take Nevada.
He said Nevada had the most overall positives, and that its geographic location was a major consideration. The presidents of the western schools, Hawaii, Fresno State and San Jose State, wanted a school to balance out the league, which has four schools in Texas (UTEP, SMU, Rice and TCU) along with Tulsa.
"A sense of balance was important to the schools in the West," said Turner.
WAC commisioner Karl Benson agreed geography was a key factor.
"Nevada is one of the fastest growing states in the country and it was important to retain a presence in Nevada," he said.
The announcement of Nevada's departure may seem like a blow to Utah State, which has aspira tions of its own to move into a better conference. But Van De Velde says the Aggies will live through it.
"We're fine," he said. "We'll just continue to try to keep improving our athletic program."
The loss of Nevada would seem to negatively affect Big West football the most, since the conference has operated with six teams for the past three years. However, Arkansas State is joining the league this year in football only, which will leave the Big West with six teams next year when Nevada leaves.
Big West presidents and athletic directors will meet next month and discuss several topics, including expansion, according to Van De Velde.
"Speculation at this point would be inappropriate," said Van De Velde. "We'll review the league's membership options. There's a possibility that we'll add a member on the football side. But I don't know that we'll do anything."
Van De Velde is also convinced that a new round of conference shakeups will happen early in the next century and said USU will be ready to make a jump "if the opportunity presents itself."
"I don't know if the WAC will stay together that much longer," said Van De Velde, who claims Rice, TCU and SMU are trying to join Conference USA. "That would start the whole domino effect again. Until then, we'll stay committed to the Big West."
However Turner, as well as Benson believe the WAC plans to be around awhile.
"We have no pressure to add an additional school. We are not in an expansion mode," said Turner. "We believe the future is bright for the WAC."