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BYU accepts WCC invitation

PROVO — BYU has accepted an invitation to join the West Coast Conference as a full member for men's basketball and other sports, beginning the 2011-2012 athletic season.

Joining the like-minded universities in the WCC was an appealing factor in BYU's decision to transition from the Mountain West Conference.

"We're grateful and honored to accept this invitation from the West Coast Conference," said BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson. "We are pleased to be associating with a group of fellow private, faith-based institutions with whom we also share strong academics. We admire the collegiality and stability this conference enjoys and look forward to competing with them."

"We have enjoyed our affiliation with the Mountain West Conference and its member schools," he added. "We'll remember them fondly, and we wish them well."

Pres. Samuelson's counterpart at the University of Portland, Rev. E. William Beauchamp, is chair of the WCC Presidents' Council and a member of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

"The West Coast Conference is excited to welcome Brigham Young University as our ninth member institution," Rev. Beauchamp said. "In BYU, we are adding a private, faith-based institution with a strong academic reputation and tradition of excellence in athletics. We feel they will be a good athletic fit with our programs that are annually challenging for postseason appearances and national championships. We are looking forward to working with BYU in the months and years ahead."

The other eight schools in the WCC are located in major Western cities less than two hours' flight time from Salt Lake City. Fifty-eight percent of BYU alumni reside in the WCC's four-state footprint of California, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

The WCC has a television contract with ESPN, which has aired more than 150 men's basketball games on its family of networks over the last five years.

"We've been seeking better national exposure and fan access for Cougar basketball and our other sports for some time now," said BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe. "We're thrilled to be able to showcase these programs on ESPN and BYUtv, and we're already working with ESPN to bring some high-profile opponents to the Marriott Center."

The WCC is well known for its competitive men's basketball lineup, which includes two programs that have been to the Sweet 16 in the last two years – Gonzaga and Saint Mary's.

The conference routinely qualifies multiple teams for NCAA Championships across its sports and regularly challenges for national championships in women's soccer (the WCC has won three national titles in the sport since 2001), women's volleyball (Santa Clara reached the Final Four in 2005; five of the eight WCC schools qualified for the 2008 NCAA Tournament), baseball (two or more programs in the NCAA Tournament in three of the last four years) and women's basketball (Gonzaga reached the NCAA Sweet 16 last year and three other teams advanced to the post-season). Pepperdine University also owns national titles in both men's golf (1997) and men's tennis (2006).

The WCC does not compete in track and field, swimming, and softball, so BYU is actively exploring other options for its programs in those sports, Holmoe said.

The WCC is a conference with a history of stability. Five of the eight schools have been in the WCC for more than 50 years, and this is the first that the conference has added a new member since 1979.

"This is a historic day for the West Coast Conference," WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said. "The addition of Brigham Young University gives the West Coast Conference nine private, faith-based institutions that share the common bond of an aligned emphasis on the combining excellence in academics with excellence in athletics."