Collegiate sports traversed a turbulent summer during 2010 with many schools opting to change conference affiliation in favor of better prospects in a fresh venue.
Prior to this month, UVU was spared the drama surrounding changes.
News surfaced January 21-22 in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News that school administrators were exploring a potential move to the Western Athletic Conference, home to Utah State University.
UVU Director of Athletics Michael Jacobsen confirmed that the school has submitted the school consideration to join the conference as a non-football school. “President [Holland] and myself have presented an information packet to the WAC,” said Jacobsen.
The information packet contained information on the school and athletics, as well as stating the university’s case on why the move would be a good fit for both the WAC and UVU. Jacobsen stressed that this was initiated by UVU and is only a preliiminary step towards consideration.
“It’s hard to say what’s possible,” said Jacobsen, “I don’t want so their reaction is positive, but prospects are still open.”
From the university’s perspective, the WAC is a better fit geographically than the Great West Conference. Currently, UVU competes with schools that are located in the Dakotas and further east, burdening the athletics department with high travel costs.
Additionally, Utah State’s position in the WAC has been confirmed after the Mountain West Conference released a statement that the MWC would not be expanding any further this year.
“From our point of view, it would be good to have an in-state [conference] rival,” said Jacobsen.
The UVU versus Utah State men’s basketball game in December set the school record for attendance as a Division I school. Fans on both sides were energetic and engaged in the game, more so than at any other game the Wolverines have played this season.
Having an in-state school on the conference schedule every year, especially one as successful in the sports UVU competes in lays a foundation to build a rivalry on.
The university is still in the early stages of the state college to full university transition, and a lack of a clear rival or competition within the range of student travel is hindering support for the athletic teams.
Students attending this university have a vested interest in seeing the WAC extend an invitation to UVU, not only in support of the athletic teams, but relating to their own educations.
“There is a saying in collegiate athletics,” said Jacobsen, “ ‘Academics are known by the company they keep in athletics.”
Jacobsen cited the example of two well-known universities: UCLA and Auburn. Both schools have national recognition, both in their athletics and as universities. But this exposure grew out of successful sports teams and not academic successes.
“The conference we are in has been great, but limiting,” said Jacobsen.
Jacobsen explained that after the GWC tournaments are completed, teams have no opportunity for post-season play at a national level. If teams were playing in a conference with the history and exposure of the WAC, a successful season would result in national recognition.
“We’re all here to get an education,” said Jacobsen. In the WAC, the value of a UVU education would be worth substantially more across the nation.
As the WAC considers its expansion prospects before the April 1 deadline, every student and faculty member better have their fingers crossed than UVU makes the cut.