Several months’ worth of presentations, planning and last-ditch efforts by Utah Valley University weren’t enough for the Western Athletic Conference, who elected Tuesday not to extend them an invitation.
UVU issued the following statement early Tuesday afternoon:
“We are disappointed that the Western Athletic Conference presidents chose not to add Utah Valley University to their conference at this time. However, we are grateful we had the opportunity to present our compelling case and show why we would be a great fit for the WAC. While things did not work out this time, we will continue building our programs in anticipation of future regional conference opportunities that may arise.”
Seattle University made the cut as a two-day session of conference meetings ended Tuesday, joining University of Denver as two non-football schools who were admitted over UVU. The WAC did not disclose any factors that went into their choice, though market size could have been in play. Both Seattle and Denver offer larger and potentially more lucrative markets than their Orem, UT counterpart.
The decision comes as a major blow to Utah Valley, who had hoped to expand its athletic potential after two years of dominance in the relatively new Great West Conference. Despite 70-plus wins combined over the last two years by its baseball team and a basketball team recently coming off a 19-11 year, the Wolverines did not qualify for heightened competition – or exposure.
UVU Director of Athletics Michael Jacobsen was “disappointed” by the news, saying he believed the school “would have been an asset” to the WAC. Jacobsen was also left confused as to the conference’s intentions after seeing UVU excluded at the expense of Seattle University.
“The thing that disappointed me the most is they continued to say they wanted to do one of two things: to not expand at all or expand with football schools,” Jacobsen said. “I can understand that, but then they expand with Seattle. I have nothing against Seattle. They’re a fine school, but they don’t have as much as we have. When they expand to add them, then that concerns me just a little bit, but that’s a thing I have no control over.
It was thought that the WAC’s invitation to UVU president Matthew Holland to be present during this week’s meetings was a sign of encouragement. The third-year president attended Monday’s session in Park City, where he presented the school’s case for admission. His pitch lasted less than an hour however, and he was told he would be contacted today by 2:00pm MST at the latest.
Ironically, Holland made his pitch the same day UVU received the GWC Commissioner’s Cup from league commissioner Ed Grom, who after congratulating the Wolverines in a statement also said, “What I appreciate about UVU is their loyalty to the Great West and their commitment to a very well-rounded program.”
It’s a loyalty Utah Valley now has no choice but to keep, even as other GWC members are also jumping ship.
North Dakota and South Dakota are slated to leave the Great West after the 2011-12 season, leaving Utah Valley, Chicago State, Houston Baptist, Texas Pan-American and New Jersey Institute of Technology as the only GWC members a year from now.
“We’re going to continue to try and build up the Great West,” Jacobsen said. “I think there’s going to be some opportunities there with some decisions the NCAA is making. We’re committed to helping them continue to be successful and build itself.”
|Salt Lake Tribune — WAC Commissioner justifies decision|
|ABC — WAC outlook sans UVU|
|Kragthorpe — Lack of football dooms Wolverines’ conference bid|
|ESPN — Seattle sleepless with excitement|