WAC snub of UVU raises questions for both sides

This week could have, should have settled the question of where Utah Valley and the Western Athletic Conference are headed.

After the WAC left UVU out in favor of Seattle University, the answer for both parties seems to be this: not a clue.

For the Wolverines, it’s a blow that leaves them reeling in the not-so-Great West Conference, which will look more like the Great West Division after North Dakota and South Dakota take off next summer and leave five schools to keep it afloat.

As for the WAC, they curiously decided to make Seattle the second non-football school invited over the past eight months (University of Denver was the other).

Questions abound. Here are a few:

Why Seattle over UVU?

Depends on who you talk to. Salt Lake Tribune reporter Tony Jones quotes WAC commissioner Karl Benson saying, “Seattle had more of the characteristics that we were looking for.”

Jones alludes to Seattle’s media market, which is admittedly larger than Orem, UT.

Neil Warner of the Daily Herald pegged inter-college alliances after UVU Director of Athletics Michael Jacobsen admitted “Idaho wanted them in. They felt like they would be a good travel partner, they have 100 years of academic excellence… In the end, I think the support that Idaho gave Seattle was big.”

If that isn’t bad enough, speculation ran rampant leading up to this week’s decision that Utah State wasn’t exactly willing to welcome UVU with open arms. Don’t forget, Utah State president Dr. Stan Albrecht is the WAC’s chair of the Board of the Directors.

When I spoke to Jacobsen two weeks before the announcement, he admitted, “The thing I do know for sure is if Utah State would support us in getting into the WAC, we would get in.”

How comforting that popularity and social issues are crippling in every aspect of schools and universities.

What does UVU have to offer?

When I spoke to Jacobsen, he was adamant the Wolverines “would have been an asset” to the WAC. Some factoids to support this:

  • UVU boasted two All-Americans for the 2010-11 season (Isiah Williams in basketball, Ben Kjar in wrestling). Seattle didn’t have any.
  • Wolverines baseball (76 wins in two years), basketball (19-11 overall), and wrestling (three national qualifiers, Kjar 4th in nation) are legit programs.
  • Location-wise, it’s hard to beat UVU’s I-15 spotlight seat.
  • A booming student body north of 30,000.

Benson, however, was more aware of what UVU lacks. Namely:

  • Not just football, but potential for football. After 27 years of trying, Jacobsen still hasn’t managed to convince the university to fund a gridiron program (there’s no room in UVU’s jam-packed campus for a field and seats anyway).
  • Tradition is huge for college athletics. UVU has a ton on the community college level, but has been a full NCAA school for just two years. Seattle? A Final Four appearance in the 1950s (with NBA legend Elgin Baylor as their star) and roughly 40 years of NCAA history under its belt.
  • Market value. Utah Valley is just down the street from BYU, 40 minutes away from University of Utah, and a couple hours from Utah State. University of Washington is Seattle’s only immediate competition, giving them a potentially larger following in an already bigger market.

What did the WAC overlook?

Potential, potential, potential. Even with other universities surrounding UVU, there would have been a huge market for another NCAA program, especially in pro-sports starved Utah.

Benson probably isn’t aware of UVU’s unofficial status as BYURU (Brigham Young University Rejectees University). As SpenceT25 said on Twitter, “The WAC obviously doesn’t understand how much ppl who’ve been denied admission 2 BYU will watch UVU sports.”

As for Seattle, their NCAA history also makes them a known quantity. Their potential has been realized, while Utah Valley’s remains untapped.

Why is the WAC suddenly so non-football friendly?

You got me. Even after extending Seattle the formal invite, WAC commissioner Karl Benson admitted to ESPN that having only seven football schools was “workable, but not ideal.”

So why jump the gun and add another pigskin-less university at all? Benson followed his previous comment by saying the WAC’s “No. 1 priority will be to get to eight or nine or more football-playing schools.”

I’m glad I’m not the only one who puts off No. 1 priorities until the last minute.

10 thoughts on “WAC snub of UVU raises questions for both sides

  1. UVU and their supporters need to realize that they dropped the (foot)ball big-time when it comes to being seriously considered for membership into the WAC. If they had a football team or have one starting within the next 2-3 years they would have received an invite without a second thought.

    Where UVU really messed up was not conducting a football feasibility study prior to applying to the WAC. UVU has never done one. Why not?…I have no idea. It doesn’t look good and probably made the school look unprepared in their presentation. It also looks bad that Utah Valley President Matthew Holland arrived at the meeting in Park City, gave his presentation, answered some questions and then bolted for the door all in under an hour. Potentially one of the biggest days in UVU’s history, and he doesn’t want to wait for the the historic meeting to end and for the decision to be announced…

  2. Regardless of any pro-UVU views, UVU President Matthew Holland walking out of the WAC members gathering early doesn’t look good to the WAC members. Where was he going? Was he hungry and needed to go to Applebees? Did he want to beat rush hour on his way back to Orem? WOW!

    Here’s some advice for UVU: do a football feasibility study, figure out a place where a stadium could fit, and don’t have your University President make a fool of himself by bolting for the door in the middle of the meeting.


    1. Good one Utah Valley JC… way to make a joke that was made in the article, that took a lot of guts. And Orem is bigger than Logan,and it’s on I-15. And yes no one knows that but it is because we have been a university for 3 years. We are the new small guys in Utah we know, but apparently the pecking order got a new bottom rung when USU starts attacking. One day we will reach the lofty USU standards.

  4. “…UVU is an open enrollment university and despite the University’s size and growth it looks as though administration will keep enrollment open for the time being…”


    The issue mentioned above alone will erase any accomplishments UVU may have had in the past, and the negative perceptions will linger until UVU does something about its horrible academic qualifications. Doesn’t the UVU administration realize that?

  5. UVU does a great job at serving the Utah County/Valley Community, as well as the Heber Valley where it has a satellite campus. The problem for UVU is that it’s not a destination school. The same argument might be made about Weber State, Southern Utah or even the University of Utah, although U of U has a medical school and does attract a lot of students from all over. UVU has what I call “Big West” syndrome. Much like most schools in the Big West Conference, it has a student population, supports the surrounding community, is easily accessible/close to mass transit (well, the I-15) and is reasonably priced. But much like most Big West schools with these large student populations, there is not a lot of student interest in sports. The students who are most interested in sports go to a destination school with a traditional style campus, storied sporting venues, teams with a history of…

  6. Yes, UVU is not a destination school, but, rather a school of convenience and pragmatic value. In general the percentage of students and alumni at any major university who are true, die-hard sports fanatics is very low. A vast majority of people are sheeple who follow their school athletics (selectively) because of the excitement of being around peers who display intense, cult-like school spirit–and not because they know every aspect of athleticism. To these BYU and Utah fans, the image is everything-whether it’s academics, sports, attractive/cool student body, etc… I have an acquaintance who’s a UT-Austin graduate and he flies to Texas every year to attend the UT-OU and UT-A&M games. He has no interest in any other UT athletics and has never attended one–except Longhorn football. How the heck is this possible? In fact he doesn’t have much interest in collegiate or professional…

  7. Got cut off. Essentially the UVU has a huge image and perception problem–whether they’re real or not. The UVU prez and the AD need to address this before it can pursue a membership in an FBS-level conference.

  8. It isn’t just about having a football team. The WAC requires an FBS level football team. That is why Weber State and Southern Utah were not even considered for WAC membership. They have football teams and pretty good ones at FCS, but they are not ready for FBS. Not remotely. It would be far easier for UVU to start an FCS football program than an FBS. The WAC needs at least one more FBS level football program, but does not need it really until 2014. Even then, it is not clear what would happen if they have yet to return to at least 8.

    But, it is essential for the WAC and the WAC’s greatest vulnerability and that is falling below 8 basketball programs. If that happened, the WAC would lose its autobid to the NCAA tournament and it would be difficult to get it back even if they subsequent went above 8 teams. That is why division 1 basketball programs are so important for the…

  9. what does untapped potential mean????????????????????????????????? im only 12 so… idk if its gross dont say anything!!

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