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Football Fizzles Out For The WAC

The last WAC football media guide.
The last WAC football media guide.

I was struck by this passage from Managing Editor Walt Rubel's column in the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Who would have thought the final football game in the history of the once-proud Western Athletic Conference would be played in San Marcos, Texas, between the (3-8) Texas State Bobcats and the (1-10) New Mexico State Aggies?

Texas State won that final conference game, 66-28.

Amid all the conference-swapping hoopla across the country, I somehow overlooked that this would be the final season of WAC football. Participating schools for the last hurrah included the aforementioned Bobcats and Aggies, plus Utah State, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, University of Texas-San Antonio and Idaho. And believe me, some deserved little more than a participation ribbon for their efforts on the field.

The WAC has been home to 29 schools in as many as 22 sports since its inception in 1962. It's been one of a few Division I conferences that have served Fronteras-area universities, most notably the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12), the Mountain West and the Southwestern Conference (which sort of morphed into the Big 12). Original WAC member schools included Arizona, Arizona State and New Mexico.

So it's the end of an era in southwestern football.

The WAC will continue to exist, of course, but without football. The Denver-based conference will rely mostly on its member schools' success in men's and women's basketball.

The conference has also made news recently by accepting Grand Canyon University, a for-profit, publicly traded, Christian university based in Phoenix. GCU has 6,500 students that attend on campus, and an additional 45,000 students taking online classes.

By adding GCU for the 2013-14 season, the WAC has taken an unprecedented step within the NCAA. This will be the first time a for-profit, public company will compete in Division I athletics, and there are a lot of questions raised by this move. At the top of my list: Are shareholders the same as boosters?

How things have changed in 50 years.