There was a time, not too long ago, when the WAC produced the nation's best football at the mid-major label.
Launched in 1962 as a 6-team league featuring Arizona and Arizona State, the WAC quickly became the lab where much of modern day football was tested and refined before it was later picked up for mainstream consumption. The conference that gave us LaVell Edwards and Chris Petersen was, at times, a true national contender. BYU won the 1984 national championship, Arizona State finished No. 2 in 1975, and Boise State got as high as No. 4 in 2009. In all, 13 different teams flying the WAC flag finished inside the AP Top 10.
The WAC was also a supernova that never stopped growing, until it eventually collapsed under its own weight and died. A conference that began life as a 6-team confederacy grew, from 1996-98, to a 16-team monstrosity that stretched from Honolulu to Houston. When the likes of Rice, Tulsa and San Jose State showed up, the WAC's top eight members split to form the Mountain West Conference. The WAC survived another decade and a half -- it was this period that gave us the dominant Boise State teams, June Jones's undefeated season at Hawaii and the epic Kellen Moore-Colin Kaepernick game, the eighth best game of the 2010s -- before realignment higher on the food chain eventually cannibalized the WAC's roster. By 2013, the Mountain West became something akin to the 1996-98 WAC, while the WAC ceased to exist as a football-playing entity.
The modern day WAC is a consortium of nine schools stretching from Chicago, to Seattle, to Stephenville, Texas, plus a whopping 10 affiliate members. The league is kind of like flubber, shifting shapes depending on the sport.
One of those sports, the WAC hopes, will soon be football.
Among the WAC's nine full members, only three play football -- New Mexico State as an FBS independent, and Tarleton State and the oddly-named Dixie State (located in St. George, Utah) as FCS independents.
But the WAC wants to boost those numbers in a hurry.
The league has reportedly pursued Big Sky member Southern Utah and, according to Low Major Madness, the WAC could be eyeing a major Texas expansion.
Extra Pointsalso reported something similar, writing, "(M)ultiple industry sources have told me that the WAC is targeting multiple football-playing schools in Texas from the Southland Conference as potential additional members."
From the outside, the move seems like reprise of when the Pac-10 targeted Texas A&M, only more desperate aggressive. Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State and Lamar are all deep into East Texas, much closer to Southland Conference bunk mates Nicholls, McNeese and Southeast Louisiana than Southern Utah, Dixie State and even Abilene Christian. (Houston Baptist, also a Southland member, competes in the WAC in men's soccer. For the sake of the hypothetical, let's say they come along too.)
Abilene Christian, however, could be a different story. ACU is only 90 minutes from incoming WAC member Tarleton State and only recently joined the Southland. The Wildcats might be more willing to listen than their eastern neighbors.
And perhaps the WAC wouldn't have to go so far as East Texas to begin with. The Big Sky has grown to 13 teams, stretching from Arizona to Washington and everywhere in between. If Southern Utah is willing to leave -- and by all accounts they are, even if the school isn't willing to admit it yet -- maybe they could bring Northern Arizona, or anyone else interested in a much easier path to an FCS playoffs auto bid, along.
Sample WAC Membership
New Mexico State*
Will that remind anyone of the WAC's glory days? No. Would all of the above schools come? Probably not.
But it sure as heck beats the alternative.