Philadelphia, PA – Davidson is heading to the Atlantic 10 Conference, joining the league in time for the 2014-15 basketball campaign.
The Wildcats made that announcement just last week, the latest program to get in on the mad dash to find grass that is supposedly greener than what it has at its current locale.
The shifting and reshaping of conference landscapes in college sports is becoming an exhaustive exercise in trying to remain current and relative, perhaps that's nowhere more evident than over in the Western Athletic Conference which has become the road-side rest stop for a multitude of under- the-radar schools.
For a league established more than 50 years ago, by the likes of Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, it should come as no surprise that not a single one of those institutions still flies the WAC flag. However, what is rather startling is the radical state of flux that has flung open a revolving door to several schools that have their heads spinning as they try to figure out if they are coming or going.
A little over a decade ago, a huge chunk of the WAC splintered off to create the Mountain West Conference, a league that not only remains today, but is thriving in both football and men's basketball. That jolt brought in a new recruitment of schools, from Rice and SMU, to San Jose State, and later Nevada and Boise State.
In 2005, the WAC waved goodbye to three schools and at the same time welcomed in Utah State, Idaho and New Mexico State. In the last couple of years the league has watched Boise, Nevada and Fresno State take their basketball squads over to the MWC, while Hawaii split up athletic endeavors between the MWC and the Big West, depending on the sport.
With just five teams ready to suit up for the 2012-13 season, the WAC began handing out league invitations as if it were hosting a Sweet 16 party and was hoping to bring in plenty of presents. However, what the conference ended up with was a handful of freeloaders who came in empty-handed and ate all of the food on their way to a quick exit. The WAC pulled in Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and Texas Arlington, all three from the Southland Conference, while the Sun Belt's University of Denver and former Independent, Seattle University, also came along for the ride.
The inclusion of the Texas-based schools served to give the league a substantial presence in the Lone Star State, albeit far less obvious than that of the Big 12. The potential to successfully recruit, as well as extend a networking immediacy within the Texas border was now a reasonable expectation. Unfortunately, that bridge was constructed on shaky ground because all three of those schools are heading elsewhere after just one season.
UTSA has accepted the challenge to compete in Conference USA, while both Texas State and UTA make the move to the Sun Belt. Another one-and-done participant is Denver, one of the top basketball teams in the WAC in 2012-13, now heading to the Summit League.
"The current climate within collegiate athletics has made it imperative that the University (of Denver) find a stable home for the majority of our sport programs," said DU Vice Chancellor for Athletics, Recreation Peg Bradley- Doppes, as the Pioneers accepted an invitation just weeks into the 2012-13 campaign.
"The Summit League is an excellent alliance for our teams, with many institutions within the conference already familiar to residents of the Rocky Mountain region. Our student-athletes will be able to jump in and compete for NCAA postseason play right away, which is the goal for all of our athletic programs."
In other words, Denver is looking out for itself and it is again time to hand out a few more invitations ...
There are plenty of other schools that are jumping at the chance to join the WAC. In fact, six new additions to the WAC basketball plan for 2013-14 are again extending the reach of the league. This time to the Midwest and the Windy City is represented with the inclusion of Chicago State, back down into Texas with UT-Pan American, and over to the west coast with Cal State Bakersfield. Occupying parts in between are UMKC, Utah Valley and Grand Canyon University, the latter making the transition to Division I status.
With student enrollment hovering in the 44,000 range, the Antelopes of Grand Canyon may have some untapped resources at their disposal, a few diamonds in the rough if you will. The team plays in a gym that holds just 2,000 and that might work against them as they make the move from Division II and the Pacific West Conference, particularly with former NBA star Dan Majerle accepting his first-ever head coaching position with the program in March.
Majerle, an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns until recently, has been a key figure in the community since being drafted by the Suns out of Central Michigan, and subsequently a popular choice for the 'Lopes.
"I know I can coach," said Majerle at his introduction. "I haven't recruited (players), but I'll surround myself with a staff that's like-minded as far as work ethic and knowing what needs to get done. I have to do a good job of hiring guys who know the ropes."
In addition to his enthusiasm, Majerle also brought along a key message for his new devotees: a 20 percent discount that day at any of his four namesake restaurants in metro Phoenix.
Maybe if the other head coaches also brought something to the proverbial table as tasty as the Sir Charles Chicken Sandwich or the Three Point Burger, this new batch of league members would cause more of a stir.
Pony up some deep dish pizza Chicago State, throw another rack of ribs on the grill UMKC, you two are just the latest flavors of the month for the WAC. But check back in November because the Western Athletic Conference reserves the right to change the menu without prior notice.